4 ways hospitals, health systems are upskilling their workforce

Hospitals and health systems are investing in upskilling their workforce, with initiatives ranging from investment in clinical certifications to a nursing scholars program.

The American Hospital Association highlighted the initiatives Feb. 16 as part of the group's report on healthcare shortages to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The initiatives:

1. Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth announced a new education and upskilling program in February, dubbed the UCHealth Ascend Career Program. The health system, which offers the program in partnership with Guild Education, plans to invest up to $50 million in clinical certifications as well as foundational learning programs; select degree programs in areas such as social work and behavioral health; and education for workers who want to enter healthcare but haven't earned a high school diploma or GED diploma or certificate.

2. University Medical Center of El Paso (Texas) launched two programs last year focused on retaining current employees. Under the CARES Pursuing Upward Learning and Legacy program, the hospital will pay up to $5,000 per year for two years for an employee to get their degree in a hard-to-fill career field, such as nursing, respiratory or imaging. Employees do not have to currently work in clinical areas to be considered for the program. However, they must be a full-time employee with at least one year of employment. Under a separate program, eligible employees will receive up to $5,250 annually in student loan repayment assistance for a healthcare degree. 

3. Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center partnered with Nashville State Community College last year to train current hospital employees to become medical assistants amid a shortage of those workers. Workers in the program are offered tuition reimbursement as well as their salaries during their full-time training. Cleaning workers and truck drivers are among those who have trained under the program. 

4. Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger launched its Nursing Scholars Program for employees in June 2021. A health system news release says the program awards $40,000 in financial support to each employee with a five-year work commitment as an inpatient nurse. The program is open to eligible employees who have worked with Geisinger for a year or more and aren't already a nurse or provider.

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