At Johns Hopkins Hospital, "Healthcare" Includes Employment

Last year, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System launched an innovative public-private partnership that trains people on public assistance to gain full- and part-time jobs at the system.

Kenneth Grant, vice president of general services for Johns Hopkins Hospital and vice president of supply chain management for Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, is not aware of another initiative like the system's General Services Internship Program. It's backed by a partnership between the hospital system, Baltimore City Department of Social Services and the Center for Urban Families, a nonprofit organization that helps Baltimoreans achieve stable employment, housing and family structures. The initiative was developed under the leadership of Kristian Hayes, assistant director of Johns Hopkins Hospital General Services.

The multifaceted program has proven beneficial from every perspective. It has created new opportunities for the unemployed and those struggling to make ends meet, consequently reducing some of the state's welfare rolls. It lets the hospital system fill vacant positions — in departments such as housekeeping, patient transport and supply chain — much faster since the hospital does not have available agencies, with pools of potential hires, for these jobs.

But maybe most importantly, the internship program has broadened the meaning of "healthcare." The interns learn new skills, secure jobs, pay taxes and feel good about themselves, says Mr. Grant. "Despite what people think about people wanting to be on public assistance, these folks have really dispelled that myth. They want to work, earn their pay, do great things and grow in the Hopkins organization."

The program involves a few steps. First, candidates must successfully complete CFUF's month-long STRIVE Employment Training Program to gain eligibility to enroll in the five-month internship onsite at Johns Hopkins. Participants rotate through various departments during the internship, including environmental services, linens, patient transport and nutrition. They take classes, shadow system employees and complete extensive training models with technical and soft skills. "At the end of the 20-week time, they will be ready to stand for employment," says Mr. Grant.

So far, each of the program's 48 participants has secured a job within the system, earning between $10.71 and $12.06 an hour, along with healthcare benefits. Mr. Grant says it's been difficult ensuring interns complete the 20-week program, not because of delinquency or absences, but because other departments in the health system want to "snatch them up right away" after seeing their work ethic.

It's important to note the intent of the program, which is not only to fill jobs, but to launch careers. "I don't expect to have these people working for me very long," says Mr. Grant. "Once they master these roles, they position themselves for the next level."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley visited Johns Hopkins in December 2013 to announce a new state record: 12,504 people had left welfare and found employment in the year ending Sept. 30.

Terron Tucker, 52, met with the governor during that visit. He had worked in healthcare for 20 years before leaving his job to help an ailing relative. After completing the internship, he landed a job with Johns Hopkins Hospital's environmental services team. "I'm so grateful," he said in a news release. "I'm employed now. This is the best gift I could have gotten this December."


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