Everyone has problems, what matters is how you face them.
For Jefferson Healthcare, the challenge was staffing shortages. Some are pandemic related, but future shortages are also predicted across America’s fastest growing industry if training doesn’t meet demand. So in 2022 Jefferson Healthcare created a new program to tackle these issues head-on, and just a year later they’ve already made significant progress.
“There’s no easy answer to our staffing shortages, but by working with local high schools, Peninsula College and increasing internal training opportunities for our own staff, we’re already seeing improvements,” says Caitlin Harrison, Jefferson Healthcare Workforce Development program manager.
1. Career paths for local youth
In an impressive feat for such a new program, Jefferson Healthcare Workforce Development was awarded a significant Career Connect WA Explore Grant. With it, they’re providing opportunities for eighth and ninth grade students in Jefferson County to explore healthcare careers through hands-on experiences and educational programs.
The Workforce Development Committee also includes two high school seniors who act as student advisors. They both interned with the program this summer writing grants, making presentations and creating informational videos.
“I feel really proud of the work we’ve done, and I know the quality of that work has been stronger because we’ve included the voices of local youth. They’re not afraid to challenge us, especially on aspects related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we’re very grateful for their input,” Harrison says.
2. Training opportunities for current employees
Current employees of Jefferson Healthcare now have the opportunity to add new skills, move up or switch career paths thanks to a number of new programs. Trainee programs for scrub technicians, pharmacy technicians, dental assistants and nurse residencies (and other programs coming soon) have helped meet current needs for staff.
“Our department leaders saw the need and volunteered to be mentors, to work a shift with a trainee, and to create opportunities for their own staff. There’s been a lot of momentum to invest in training and development,” Harrison says.
3. New training opportunities in Jefferson County
Jefferson Healthcare Workforce Development has worked closely with Peninsula College to expand access to existing healthcare programs and bring new training opportunities to the area.
“We’ve created more spots in the Peninsula College Registered Nurse program and the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program, and are in the final stages of bringing in a new program that hasn’t been available in Jefferson County,” Harrison says.
Living wages, local jobs, and meaningful work
Jefferson Healthcare Workforce Development is just getting started, and Harrison looks forward to helping more people find meaningful careers in healthcare.
“There aren’t many examples of career development programs in other healthcare organizations, especially in rural areas. I’m proud of the creative solutions we’ve been able to implement so far, and we continue to apply for grants to keep doing this important work for the county.”