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Catalyst Learning Blog


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

2018 Trends for Frontline Healthcare Employees Catalyst Learning
The U.S. labor force, health IT, and healthcare industry are rapidly changing in 2018. Changing needs for job skills, full employment levels, an aging workforce, and increasing diversity will lead to changes that have a considerable impact on U.S. hospitals and health systems. While putting your patients at the forefront of your organizations health goals in 2018, remember the frontline employees who are the voice of your brand to these patients - and be prepared to change!

Waves of learning credentials
One of the most disrupted industries is education, with more 3rd parties offering courses, credentials and certifications than ever before. So many young workforce entrants will avoid costly traditional secondary education/college and pursue low cost online courses to get skills. Groups like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, edX, Udemy, Udacity, and The Khan Academy are leading the charge. Self-directed learning is driving the need for new credentialing.

Focus on upskilling and retraining current workers
There is political discussion around bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, while the media continues to publish alarmist articles on how technology advancements will eliminate jobs. But this may be smoke in mirrors; the biggest issue is finding ways to grow the U.S. worker skills gap! There are currently 6.2M job openings in the U.S. that are unfilled. Companies can’t find the right workers with the right skills, at the right time. Employers will be investing more into their training and development programs in 2018 to fill their skills gaps and reach full capacity.


Artificial Intelligence (Chatbots) become part of the workplace – but for hospitals too?
This has big HR buzz right now, with both excitement and fear. The large digital companies are concentrating on smarter products using AI. There are over 1,000 AI vendors, supporting all types of businesses and people. Companies are using Chatbots as personal assistants, on-demand customer support, data mining, streamlining processes, recovering information, and answering employee questions.

Healthcare is so hands-on and people-centric that you may think Chatbots won’t make a divot in the workforce. But the top roles it replaces are: Information clerks/help desk staff, phone receptionists, assistants, security guards, and cooks/food. Because these roles are often a first step into a healthcare career, it could throw off traditional career pipelines for large hospitals.


EAP programs get prioritized – financial acuity, plus mental health and wellness
With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and high student loan debts, workers are struggling and it affects their health. Financial struggles affect productivity and job satisfaction. Many companies are helping with loan assistance, financial planning, counseling and mental health. In 2018, mental health issues are slowly carrying less of a stigma in the workplace.

Talent professionals can’t always just give $400 to every employee to spend on health activities, but they can encourage a company culture where health and wellness are promoted day to day. Put up a walking track around the hospital, encourage a charity walk, arrange games and activities, encourage onsite flu shots, or bring in a nutritionist to speak in the break room.


Employee burnout causes turnover
Employees are burning out from working longer hours with no additional compensation, because technology has expanded the work day. A study by Kronos cites that half of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for 50%+ of their annual workforce turnover.

Workforce decisions sway consumer behavior
Big data and research is showing a connection between a positive employee/candidate experience and actual revenue. A major study shows that 58% of employees are less likely to buy from a company to which they’ve applied if they don’t get a response to their application. HR will focus more on candidate communications when not hired, shorten hiring process, provide more clear application instructions, and giving notice when positions are filled or no longer considered. Most hospital entry-level employees live in the neighborhoods where they apply for positions, these are future patients. So treat them well when they interact with your health brand.

Companies take diversity more seriously
This subject has been in the conversation for years, but it is reaching a tipping point where companies are investing money in improving the composition of their workforce. Many companies are creating employee resource groups to support all types of diversity, including gender, ethnicity and age. Hospitals will aim to get their staff to mirror populations of their community. Building diversity at the top of the leadership apex may take grooming employees while at lower levels.

Aging workforce
3 in 4 Americans plan to work past retirement age. As Baby boomers maintain their leadership positions, it will be harder for younger workers to advance to new positions, which could lead to high turnover, frustration and stress. Older workers may need tech training to keep skills current, so have a plan for your facility so you can hold on to long tenured employees.

An aging workforce is especially applicable to nursing staff. According to a Fall 2017 study by AMN Healthcare, 54% of bedside nurses are at least thinking about retiring or switching to part-time employment in the next 3 years. Prepare your younger nurses to lead, and encourage them to apply for leadership positions. NCharge: “Nurses Learning to Lead” is a nurse leadership development product that may be a good fit to prepare young nurses to lead.

Leaders encourage more human interaction, soft-skill development
Living in a Tech world has led to a breakdown in basic communication skills. Employers will begin to re-emphasize soft skills like emotional intelligence, collaboration, and negotiation. Ensure that soft skills are on the agenda for employee development.

More Applicant Assessments
HR will give more assessments to a potential new hire before hiring candidates, or transitioning associates to new roles. Employers can test for technical skills or culture fit. Use it sparingly though, applicants hate long rambling, transparent assessments. Only ask questions that have direct relevance to what you want to know.

Diversifying Perks
“Diversifying perks” may sound like Millennial code for “silly work place nonsense.” Obviously hospitals are not going to start looking like Silicon Valley work spaces any time soon, but don’t fear benefits and perks that seem weird, or offbeat. Employees aren’t looking for NERF guns or bean bag chairs, its more what they represent. Don’t shut down perk ideas just because they seem odd. Reclining chairs, music, and an Espresso machine in the break room may be the sweet spot, and will show your employees that you want them to be comfortable at work, and socialize at appropriate times.

Leveraging Training as an Employee Benefit
Training is becoming a differentiator when companies compete for talent. Personal and professional development is an important focus area for modern employees when seeking employment, as well as when deciding to stay with their current employer. Provide accessible training to refine and grow employee skills. Developed employees are more motivated and successful in their roles. Training should be leveraged as an employee incentive and added to existing benefits packages, alongside retirement and health options. Predictions are for a 2-5% global training spend increase in 2018.

What are the fastest growing roles in the U.S. in 2018? 

Heads up! 10 out of the 30 are in healthcare, and 6 of the 10 are entry-level or mid-level frontline employees. With the economy at Full-Employment levels and an aging American workforce, HR will be developing plans to fill and hang onto their employees, especially in these 6 positions. Occupational Therapist Assistants/Aides, Physical Therapists Assistants/Aides, Pharmacy Techs, Medical Assistants, Skin Care Specialists, and Personal Aides/Home Health Aides. 


"10 Workplace Trends You'll See in 2018", Forbes Nov 1 2017, Dan Schawbel
2018 HR Trends - Candidate Experience - What You Need to Know, Rezoomo in Human Resources Today, Nov 2 2017
"5 Major Talent Trends for 2018", Capterra Talent Management, Nov 7 2017, Halden Ingwersen
5 workplace trends you'll see in 2018"... Workforce Institute
Top 5 Workplace Trends for 2018, Laura Handrick, Nov 6 2017, Fit Small Business
Trends 2018: Speed is the heart of the learner experience" Doug Harward and Ken Taylor, Nov 2017, Training Industry
Top 30 fastest-growing jobs, 2018,, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forbes
 Society for Human Resource Management - HR Magazine: "How to Accommodate Employees with Mental Illness"

Growing Their Own at East Alabama Medical Center Catalyst Learning
Growing Their Own at East Alabama Medical Center
East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) has a longstanding tradition of growing their own to carry out the organization’s mission of “high quality, compassionate healthcare.” In fact, a V.P. started as an orderly 34 years ago, proof that senior leadership has walked the walk. While several programs were in place to retain professional positions, growth opportunities were needed for entry-level frontline employees to continue growing internal talent. 

“There’s a lot of competition in this region for entry-level employees, so we started to look at how to better retain talent at EAMC,” said Karen Gresham, RN, director of education services. “Our frontline employees wanted opportunities for development and promotions, and we realized we had a gap in what we offered at the entry level.”


In 2005, EAMC began offering Catalyst Learning’s School at Work (SAW), a career development program for entry-level healthcare associates, to frontline employees to help them advance within the organization through clinical or administrative positions. Today, more than 130 employees have graduated from the program and more than half of those employees have been promoted. Ten percent of SAW students have gone on to earn a college degree.  


 In the beginning, Gresham admits, some managers were hesitant to recommend employees for SAW because they didn’t want to see talented employees leave their departments. That way of thinking, however, has shifted as managers experience firsthand the positive effect SAW has on employees as they develop skills in areas like medical terminology, soft skills and math. 
“Employees are more confident, more engaged and they are speaking up,” said Gresham. “They are making a difference in their departments.”


The focus is now on EAMC’s mission for high quality, compassionate care, and the opportunity for SAW participants to grow into roles where they are providing better care for patients. Many SAW participants move into positions where they are interacting with patients and families, and they are expected to be good examples for compassionate customer service. 


SAW graduates also have personal development plans with clear goals for what they want to accomplish. Managers recognize SAW graduates for more than just their job title. They are career-oriented employees who have computer skills, as well as important soft skills such as the ability to handle conflict and difficult situations.


EAMC has taken its commitment to entry-level employees a step further with a strong focus on “what’s next?” for SAW graduates. Will the employee go to school on a scholarship or with tuition reimbursement? How will the employee grow in his or her current role? Additionally, all SAW graduates go through EAMC’s internal financial university to learn how to manage their personal finances. 

“It [SAW] has made me a risk-taker and a goalsetter,” said SAW graduate JaQuita Newsome. “I have been able to learn new ideas, make new friends, meet new people, advance my work skills and job performance, and it has made me push further towards job advancement.”

EAMC has delivered 12 SAW classes with a 90 percent completion rate. The success stories speak for themselves. A CNA in EAMC’s long-term care facility who participated in the first SAW class in 2005 is now a SAW coach working in the education services department. Another employee who started as a general cleaner is going to school on a scholarship and will become a nurse in May.

“When I talk to SAW participants, I tell them that they are in charge of their future,” said Gresham. “It’s too important for them to leave it in anyone else’s hands. We give them the tools and knowledge to succeed in what they want to do.”

Building on their success, leadership development programs expand to frontline nurses   

EAMC started as a small, 81-bed hospital. After an acquisition in 2014, the hospital has grown to two main facilities, 340 beds, and many off-site services. EAMC also added a cancer center and is the only hospital in Alabama with a Silver Beacon Award in ICU. The award recognizes caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ six Healthy Work Environment Standards. Units that achieve this three-year designation meet national criteria consistent with Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.


These high standards are the result of carrying out EAMC’s mission to deliver the best possible care, but much like EAMC’s experience with entry-level employees, the organization’s robust leadership development program wasn’t reaching frontline nurses or addressing the development needs of nurse managers and charge nurses. 

Given their success with SAW, EAMC again turned to Catalyst Learning for a solution. Catalyst had recently launched NCharge, an evidence-based curriculum that gives first level supervisory nurses the skills they need to more effectively lead. The program was in line with EAMC’s leadership development and succession planning goals. NCharge is now a part of EAMC’s official succession plan.


“I just loved the program [NCharge] right away. It spoke to me as a nurse,” said Rosemary Cummings, director of medical surgical services. “When I started as a labor and delivery nurse, I was put in charge after being on the floor for three months or so. If I’d had some of this info, I could have done more with that position. So, I understood what we were lacking, not having anything for those supervisors.”


Recognizing the importance of having experience in a nurse leadership role, EAMC decided to have nurse managers like Cummings deliver the NCharge content. Each nurse manager is paired with an educator who can help deliver the curriculum. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 


As with SAW, the success of NCharge is dependent on buy-in from managers and their willingness to allow frontline staff time away from their regular duties to complete the program. Once managers learned the objectives and how a leadership program developed specifically for nurses could make a difference, they were on board. This year, EAMC will also offer NCharge to managers to give them a firsthand understanding of what NCharge participants are learning.


EAMC is focused on results and a return on their investment. Two groups of 20 nurses have gone through the program and checkpoints are now in place to see if the nurses are using the skills they are learning. 


Managers are seeing improved engagement and confidence among nurses and a positive change in communication with physicians and other employees. One participant shared with Cummings that she uses different parts of NCharge every day, for example finance and value-based purchasing skills that are typically learned on the job. Two nurses who have completed the program have been promoted to managers. 


EAMC’s long-term goal for its nurse leadership development program is sustainability. Cummings and other instructors are planning lunch-and-learns with the two groups who have gone through NCharge to discuss how they are leveraging their new skills and which tools are most effective. The lunches will also be an opportunity for participants who formed a bond completing the program together to reconnect. 


“We are not part of a big organization, but we offer quality healthcare here. We take a lot of pride in how we do things from a quality and cost perspective,” said Cummings. “It helps our frontline supervisors to see we’re investing in them. Development at this organization is an important piece of who we are. I think that’s why people stay.”




Healthcare Workforce Demands, Gulf Coast chardyadmin

Smart employers look closely at workforce demands when writing their strategic workforce plans.  Healthcare human resources professionals need to stay in-the-know on market trends such as an increase or decrease in patient volumes, which healthcare jobs are currently in demand, and which roles are on the rise.  Hospitals and other healthcare organizations rely on industry research to help them see recent trends and anticipate needs in the years to come.  Healthcare is a competitive market undergoing dramatic changes so if organizations are to survive and perform well, they must be prepared to attract and retain high quality workers.

Below is an excerpt from a white paper recently released by 'Workforce Solutions' on the demands of healthcare workforce in the Gulf Coast Region, today.  Download the Full Paper Here.

EXCERPT: A Change in the Delivery of Services

Times are changing and no longer are the days where the majority of surgeries and many medical and diagnostic procedures require a visit to the hospital. Chart 2 shows the percentage of health care jobs by subsector in 1990 and 2014. The share of health care employment in Hospitals has fallen from 51.0% in 1990 to 38.4% in 2014 while the share of Ambulatory Health Care Services increased from 36.7% to 49.8%.



While all three subsectors of the health care industry continue to grow, Ambulatory Health Care Services has replaced Hospitals as the number one job producer in the region, see Chart 3.



This data comes from Workforce Solutions, an affiliate of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board, which manages a regional workforce system that helps employers solve their workforce problems and residents build careers so both can compete in the global economy. The workforce system serves the City of Houston and the surrounding 13 Texas Gulf Coast counties including: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.  Visit their website here.

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