When Leah Hughes enrolled in a certified nurse assistant (CNA) course as a high school senior, she set her sights on a nursing career that would culminate in nursing administration.
Her ambitions came full circle in January when AdventHealth Redmond named her nursing director of its med/surg unit.
“It was time for celebration because I finally made it to where I originally wanted to be,” she said.
Hughes, who has family ties to AdventHealth Redmond nurses, said having her CNA license made it possible for her to work as a nurse tech throughout nursing school. AdventHealth Redmond also allowed her to work flexible schedules so she could concentrate on her studies.
Three years into working as a registered nurse, she stepped in as a charge nurse and followed a mentor’s advice to further her career. She took advantage of the hospital’s tuition reimbursement program to pursue her master’s degree in nursing leadership and administration and participated in the hospital’s leadership development program.
“They continued to pour more resources into me to get me prepared to be where I am today,” she said.
Hughes’ experience is representative of the ways AdventHealth invests in its team members to help them grow in their careers, said Patsy Adams, AdventHealth Redmond’s director of human resources.
“We provide tuition reimbursement, career path mapping and career counseling,” she said. “We have support for certifications and provide opportunities for growth in promotions. We have leadership development programs, leadership courses and staff education courses for growth and development through our leadership and development team.”
Retaining skilled talent like Hughes, as well as bringing new faces into the pipeline, are top priorities for hospital administrators as they, like their peers across the country, strategize how to care for an aging population amid staffing shortages exacerbated by the taxing coronavirus pandemic. AdventHealth Gordon, AdventHealth Murray and AdventHealth Redmond all offer a nurse residency program.
“They’re our future,” said Jeni Ingersoll, vice president and chief people officer for AdventHealth’s Southeast Region. “When baby boomers start retiring, we will experience a great need to replace that workforce, so we have to invest now and early in these future health care workers.”
Garrett Nudd, associate vice president of marketing and brand strategy for AdventHealth’s Georgia market, said workforce development leaders anticipate Georgia will need an additional 120,000 health care workers by 2025. Nurses and skilled clinicians make up a significant portion of that number, he said, but they also need to fill other jobs vital to operating a hospital.
“Any job you can think of can be employed by a hospital — engineers, culinary services, I.T.,” he said. “We need everybody, and everybody is competing for every profession, so we want to make the hospital an attractive place to come to work.”
Educational partnerships for a thriving future
In addition to investing millions of dollars in compensation and incentive packages to attract top talent, the AdventHealth Georgia market has leaned into its long-standing partnerships with area schools, career academies and colleges to prepare students for careers in health care, Ingersoll said.
“We have cohorts of nursing students who complete their clinicals here and partner with our local high schools for their work-based learning programs, where students can select a department of interest and complete a semester working in that department,” she said. “We also arrange job shadow days in different departments so students can get a glimpse of a job that they’re interested in.”
While Brandi Hayes, EdD, director of college and career programs for Calhoun City Schools, has worked with AdventHealth for years to design pathways for students to pursue careers in patient care and allied health care, she said the projected workforce needs have encouraged more creative solutions.
“They’ve been allowing work-based learning students to come in and do rotations for a really long time, but what we’ve started realizing is that’s not enough,” she said. “We have to get kids exposure to more things to deepen that relationship.”
She said they’ve collaborated to increase CNA and other certification offerings, develop a new emergency medical technician pathway and implement a teacher externship program to expand educators’ knowledge about job opportunities for students.
“We’re working on getting them into AdventHealth facilities so they can see what a great employer they can be and have a good experience, so they will stay on and work through college if they stay local, or if they go off to college, the experience will keep them tied so they can come back,” Dr. Hayes said.
Tracy Farriba, director of community outreach for AdventHealth’s Georgia market, said more comprehensive work-based learning has helped students enter the workforce while still in high school or right after graduation.
“They get an idea of what it’s like being in here and the day-to-day, so they can say, ‘I don’t like that,’ or, ‘I love doing this,’” said Farriba, a registered nurse who also serves on the board of directors for the Calhoun College and Career Academy. “We want students to know you don’t just have to be a clinician to work in health care.”
She’s also organized career fairs and arranged for health care professionals to speak to students and future health professionals student organizations. One of the highlight events, said Farriba is the surgical outreach days for students, hosted by AdventHealth Medical Group Urology at Calhoun. At this event, director of robotics and urology Hak Lee, MD, and his team devoted a day to training select local high school students to develop basic suturing skills, laparoscopic surgical skills, da Vinci robotic skills and endoscopic urological techniques.
“It’s all about relationships — partnering with schools, making it easy for their students to come here for student placement or clinicals,” Adams said.
Historically, the AdventHealth Gordon Foundation has funded scholarships for local students, which are awarded each year to candidates who apply and have shown progress toward a health care career. The Foundation started the scholarship a decade ago and has awarded well over $100,000 in scholarships, funded purely on the interest from the investment. Members of AdventHealth Gordon’s clinical team working today are recipients of the scholarship and have used it to advance their training and degrees.
Investing in physicians of the future
AdventHealth Redmond serves as a training ground for nurse residents, internal medicine residents and physician residents seeking to hone their clinical skills while waiting to transition into a specialty program.
“We are one of the largest community residency programs in the state,” said Kathryn Lohmann, MD, director of AdventHealth Redmond’s Internal Medicine Residency Program. “We’ve seen an increasing number of applicants and the quality of applicants are improving, as well.”
She attributed the increase — more than 1,000 applicants nationwide for 13 program seats this past year — to AdventHealth Redmond’s growing reputation for turning out highly skilled internal medicine physicians.
“We’re getting those applicants because our residents have gone out and said this is an exceptional training environment,” she said. “The thing that sets this residency program apart is we are situated in a hospital that is almost specifically designed to build strong internal medicine doctors. Their education is one-on-one with an attending physician or a specialist. That means it’s really unfettered learning that’s directed and produces very competent doctors.”
The program also enjoys a healthy number of applicants from Georgia, she added, thanks to formal partnerships that bring in students from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and the Suwanee campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for clinical rotations.
“Once you have established a robust residency program, you get those medical students to come in and create a medical education environment,” Dr. Lohmann said. “What we want is to grow our own and retain those good doctors in the state or the region.”
Many of the graduates stay in Northwest Georgia to practice medicine, she said.
“Every single year, we have had at least one individual from the graduating class, if not up to three, join as faculty and stay right here,” she said. “It’s a good place to live and a good place to be a doctor.”
Join a mission that matters
AdventHealth Georgia is currently hiring positions across Northwest Georgia in many areas of the hospitals and clinics, in Chatsworth, Calhoun and Rome, Georgia. Potential employees can find out more and interview on the spot each Wednesday at any of the three locations from 10 a.m. to noon at an event called “Walk in Wednesdays.” To discover open positions at AdventHealth Georgia, visit https://bit.ly/3xWfSK9 or drop by an AdventHealth Georgia hospital on a Wednesday morning.