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Catalyst Learning Blog


Articles, case studies, and success stories to guide and inspire healthcare HR, Organizational Development, and Clinical professionals.

Eight Catalyst Learning customers nationally recognized for investments in frontline healthcare employees. Catalyst Learning
Do you wonder what the best healthcare companies do to invest in the skills and career development of their frontline workers?


If so, CareerSTAT is where you should inquire. CareerSTAT is a network of almost 200 healthcare and workforce leaders. CareerSTAT promotes investment in the skills and careers of frontline healthcare workers by supporting organizations with workforce development programs. CareerSTAT’s goal is to increase business impact, improve health outcomes, and support good jobs in America’s health companies.


Catalyst Learning is honored to announce four of our customers which received 2017 CareerSTAT Frontline Health Care Worker Champions or Emerging Champions recognition in 2017. Catalyst Learning also wants to showcase our four customer winners from 2015. See how these best practice healthcare organizations used School at Work (SAW) and other Catalyst Learning products as an integral component of their workforce development strategy.



2017 Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions and Emerging Champions


Mercy Health (Missouri) - Frontline employee development and improving compensation of employees is at the core of Mercy's business strategy. Mercy uses its Lowest Paid Worker Committee and senior leader involvement to develop strategies that improve wages and career opportunity. Mercy uses School at Work® (SAW) to give frontline workers the opportunity to brush up on basic skills and more advanced healthcare knowledge, with intent to move its lowest paid workers into more advanced clinical and support roles. Mercy offers tuition advancement programs, affordable transportation, medical premium assistance, affordable child care, on-site clinic, and other financial incentives.


University Health System (Texas) - Celebrating 100 years of service to the community in 2017, University Health System has been regularly named best hospital in the San Antonio region and the sixth best in Texas by U.S. News & World Report. It believes in growing its own employees and preparing them for larger roles. University Health System implements an inclusive hiring policy and is committed to equitable talent development. It offers trainings to its frontline staff, including ECHO (Expanding your Career and Health Opportunity) and SAW by Catalyst Learning. At University Health System, the CEO even hosts a party celebrating the graduates of SAW and posts success stories on the intranet and in the company


Yale New Haven Hospital (Connecticut) - Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) offers a wide range of career development services to its frontline workers. Some of these services include one-on-one career counseling, resume assistance, a direct tuition payment program (known as the Tuition Loan Forgiveness program), college fairs and access to internet based online, career-development tools. YNHH offers SAW, which gives frontline workers the chance to learn, or relearn, a variety of skills that prepare them for new roles. The majority of SAW graduates at YNHH have continued their education to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree. The business impact to YNHH’s efforts is shown in improved patient experience and achieving quality and safety goals.


U.C. Davis Health (California) - UC Davis Health is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best hospitals, chosen for Consumer Choice Awards, and is a top community employer. UC Davis Health is proud of its sustained investment in its frontline workers, and was the first SAW customer on the West Coast! In addition to its nine SAW cohorts, UC-Davis Health has implemented CAPS (Accelerated Performance Series) for its Administrative Assistants Academy since 2014.


2015 Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions and Emerging Champions


TriHealth (Ohio) - TriHealth partners with the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati (HCC) to provide greater access to learning and foster advancement for entry-level employees. HCC is a partnership of local healthcare employers, community-based organizations, and educators. HCC programs include School at Work, CareerCare, and tuition cost for Patient Care Assistant Training. TriHealth did a large ROI study which showed how retention costs and job satisfaction were greatly improved by SAW and by being an HCC cohort participant.


Norton Healthcare (Kentucky) - Norton has built a culture of continual, lifelong learning. Norton Healthcare’s Office of Workforce Development serves as the primary career and financial support mechanism for frontline employees. In 2013, the office supported 550 frontline employees working toward degrees and certifications in health-related fields. SAW is one of the many programs Norton uses to advance frontline employees. Norton boasts high marks in ROI for frontline employees who earn higher certificates, diplomas, or degrees.


LifeBridge Health (Maryland) - LifeBridge Health has won acclaim as a Baltimore Regional Employer for its Workforce Development program. Its Workforce Development program was also a factor in winning the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Baltimore Best Place to Work Awards and making Fortune’s 100 “Best Companies to Work For” list in 2010. SAW is a part of LifeBridge Health’s workforce development program.


UnityPoint Health (Iowa) - UnityPoint Health has created a culture of advancement and development while providing quality care to their patients for more than 100 years. It has on-site and employee-centered training, such as SAW. UnityPoint Health has mentoring, diverse training programs, and success in growing their workforce’s wages. Working with the National Fund collaborative, Central Iowa Works, UnityPoint provides training for key industry certificates through its Workforce Training Academy, managerial development through its Breakthrough to Leadership program, and career coaching through its in-house Retention Specialist.




Benefits of Trust and Engagement in the Workforce chardyadmin

Source: "100 Best" data provided by Great Place to Work Institute
Comparative data provided by BLS.

Drawing the RoI from employee investment can be a challenge but every VP or Director wants that data to bring to the board room.  Nothing is more powerful than concrete numbers - especially to a hospital CFO!  

These impressive stats may be just what you need to convince your senior leaders how important your engagement programs really are:


  • Committed and engaged employees who trust their management:
    • perform 20% better
    • are 87% less likely to leave the organization
  • Publicly-traded companies on the 100 Best Company List 
    • consistently outperform major stock indices by 300%
    • have half the voluntary turnover rates of their competitors

Cost savings from reduced turnover alone can be a major money-saver.  From hiring costs to overtime pay to cover empty positions, to time and resources dedicated to onboarding, high turnover rates are something every hospital administrator has their eye on.


So the next time your budget goes under review or you have to justify a learning and career development expense, you'll be better prepared!

What Makes An Employee Highly Engaged? chardyadmin

Can you check all these items off the list in your organization?  Do you know what portion of your entry level are experiencing each of these?  What about your mid-level and first time supervisors?  What can you do this year to improve one or more of these areas?  Take control of turnover costs and help your patients feel how much ALL of their care team wants to be there.


Six Ways to Keep Frontline Employees Engaged chardyadmin


“Service support is increasingly important. There is a tremendous need for high customer service skills: think hospitality-minded members. We are trying to work with workforce boards and schools to prepare for a better fit for health care for our future.” Amy Barry, SVP and CHRO, Lakeland Regional Health


With service support positions taking an increasingly important role in healthcare, employee engagement and retention is top of mind for HR leaders. Most organizations understand the importance of employee engagement as it relates to morale and turnover, but what let’s take a moment to define an engaged employee.


Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. (Forbes, 2012)


The definition of an engaged employee has been confused in recent years.  It’s up to administrators and managers to identify the characteristics of an engaged employee according to the organization’s mission and goals.  Quite as important, leadership must effectively communicate these characteristics to all departments and units to ensure alignment. 


Once you’ve defined the traits and behaviors of an engaged employee, you can develop a strategy to encourage those qualities. While rewards and incentives are important, strive to go beyond the norm and create a positive environment that is unique to your organization. There are a number of ways to build loyalty with frontline employees.


  1. Share the organization’s mission and vision – It may sound obvious, or even cliché, but employees who feel they are a part of a larger purpose are more likely to exceed expectations.

  2. Keep employees informed - If you want employees to be actively interested in the organization and its success, update frontline employees on the latest company news, events and performance.
  3. Offer learning opportunities - By making this available, the organization is sending a clear message that leaders care about employee achievement and development. In a healthcare setting, development programs are also great for team building.

  4. Recognize positive behaviors and outcomes - When an employee goes above and beyond for a patient, team member or manager, be sure to acknowledge their effort. As part of your feedback, emphasize key skills such as solving problems and communicating effectively.

  5. Build trust within the team - Frontline employees who trust their managers and peers have a greater appreciation for their jobs. They also pass that respect on to the patients they serve.

  6. Have fun! - Realistically, it may be that your organization or a single department is not in a position to promote this. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a goal for improvement and communicate that to your employees. Remembering suggestion #2 above, recognize that limitation if you have it and work toward a better day. This goes a long way to supporting #5, as well. People spend a lot of time at work. If they’re having fun, they’ll enjoy being there, have an upbeat attitude and build long-lasting bonds with others.


Frontline employees with high morale perform their best and have a desire to advance within the organization. When it comes to turnover, investing in talent yields much greater returns than dedicating valuable resources to a reactive approach.

Strong Thinkers & Problem Solvers Improve Patient Satisfaction chardyadmin

The ability to think clearly and solve problems is a vital skill for healthcare employees, regardless of position or title. The decisions that frontline employees make can have an immediate impact on the efficiency of the unit, the quality of care received by patients and their families, and the reputation of the healthcare organization... and that's nothing to sneeze at. 


Employees with strong critical thinking skills are well-informed and more flexible in their approach to daily work. They understand how to gather relevant information and when to change direction, which is essential in an on-your-toes healthcare setting. Strong thinkers and problem solvers also know how to identify issues and proactively implement solutions to avoid costly mistakes.


When HCAHPS surveys show opportunities for improvement, leaders turn to several places for insight before taking action.  By looking at specific questions and targeting the roles responsible for them, improvement teams can target role-specific employee engagement survey results.  When conferring with floor and team managers, individual performance reviews may produce some candidates for learning and skill development.   


In any case, healthcare employers never fail to draft improvement plans - these usually include learning seminars which address topics such as:


▪       Understanding the steps in the problem solving process

▪       Determining the root causes of problems

▪       Using critical thinking skills to improve decision making

▪       Practicing the key skills of analyzing, evaluating and reasoning


With a healthcare-specific curriculum, frontline employees can learn to think more independently and be open to new perspectives. Most importantly, they develop a deeper understanding of their potential impact on patient satisfaction. And a well-informed, independent frontline workforce means more time for managers and directors to spend on taking other areas of performance to the next level!

Catalyst Learning Customers Recognized at Upskill America Summit in DC chardyadmin


Even the White House takes notice when employers display the level of dedication to advancing front-line workers for which CLC's customers are known! On Friday 4/24, Mercy Health (Cincinnati), Norton Healthcare, TriHealth and UnityPoint Health represented all entry level healthcare champions who provide upward mobility for their associates.


At the White House Upskill Summit, employers were lauded for their success in helping their employees move into Middle Class jobs. Best practices for helping frontline workers develop new skills and earn higher wages were shared. Congratulations to all!  Read more about Norton and TriHealth's frontline efforts.

Why This Is a Really Big Deal   

Ongoing development at the entry level is not always the first thing on the minds of healthcare executives, even if it is smart business.  And recent challenges stemming from ACA make you wonder how these hospitals manage to prioritize these program and why they feel it's still so important. But then, that's what Catalyst Learning is all about:


"We are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with over 500 healthcare employers to increase the skills and upward mobility of entry and mid-level associates. It's a win for the organization in retention and engagement and a win for the associate who gains a career he/she never dreamed possible. Executives like Jenny, Molly, Tony and Joyce are making this happen from one end of America to the other - and we humbly and sincerely thank them for their partnership."  

- Lynn Fischer, Founder & CEO, Catalyst Learning Company


And for those still craving information on facilities using more flexible approaches and targeted academies, download the write-ups in the CLC blog.


Make a Commitment in Your Healthcare Organization

The Upskill Initiative is a public-private effort created to clear pathways for the more than 20 million workers in frontline jobs who may lack the opportunity to progress into higher-paying jobs. If you are interested in offering a career development system to your entry-level employees, please contact Catalyst Learning today.

Navigating the Shift to Outpatient Care chardyadmin
Expanding outpatient services is becoming the norm for some healthcare systems as they look to improve patient care. Naturally, more outpatient visits means fewer inpatient stays, and a shift in how healthcare organizations generate revenue. For many networks, the movement is also forcing widespread cultural and operational changes.
Outpatient care is at the forefront of both short-term and long-term planning as it impacts everything from communicating with patients to employee training to building design.  
Healthcare executives advise the following for integrating outpatient services with inpatient care:  
1.    Cross-train inpatient and outpatient employees so that there is a mutual understanding of different approaches and services.
2.    Ensure that both clinical and non-clinical employees are operating at levels that match their capabilities. Provide education and training opportunities for those who wish to advance their skill sets and careers.
3.    Promote a patient-centric culture that is focused on wellness and preventative care. Improve communications with both patients and their families who support their health.
4.    Help employees understand that profitability is a shared responsibility across the entire network - from hospitals to ambulatory care centers to home care agencies.
The move from inpatient to outpatient care can benefit both patients and healthcare organizations. Systems that invest, build and reorganize to deliver customer-focused care will find themselves one step ahead of this growing trend.
•"Connecting the Divide between Inpatient and Outpatient Care: A comprehensive practice platform blends evidence-based tools with team competency and compassion";
Michelle R. Troseth; Advance Healthcare Network, Executive Insight; August 2013.
•"The Great Migration"; Rebecca Vesely; Hospitals and Health Networks; March 2014.

Admin Assistant Day, Engagement and HCAHPS Catalyst Learning

Administrative assistants -  they save you time, money, ensure you're prepared for half a dozen meetings a day and ward off unwanted calls and emails.  If you did the math on the amount of time (money) your office assistant saves you in a given week, you'd probably be looking for the same return in all your investments.


The use of medical secretaries in hospitals, physician practices and outpatient facilities is projected to rise by 36% in the next 10 years, reports the US Department of Labor.  That's more than RN's, LPN's, Medical Techs or even healthcare IT professionals. [read article]  Comic - Busy CEO's Admin Assistant


CLC is interested in what really works to engage and retain office administrative assistants. According to U.S. News and World Reports, the two top contributors are:

1. Outstanding office benefits and

2. A strong belief in their own abilities. 


So what about the other office support roles in your organization?  If you think they can't impact quality or patient satisfaction, you might want to consider this: registrars and schedulers deal with patients that skip appointments, forget their paperwork, and pay their bills late.  Medical records clerks and transcriptionists type notes that go into medical files for quality review.  And coders contribute to reimbursement through accuracy, timeliness, and their efforts to make the switch to ICD-10.  See our special offer on 2.5 hour seminars - good only through April 23rd.


The duties of Patient Service Reps can also have a powerful impact on HCAHPS and operational effectiveness. Last month our newsletter highlighted one organization's work in professionalizing this role.  If you missed it, read here. 

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