Kansas City Area Hospitals Have Big Plans for ‘Grow Your Own’ Initiative


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When he started with Saint Luke’s Health System about a decade ago, lab worker Joe Dougherty III figured the best position he might hope for at this point in his career was a supervisory role in phlebotomy.

Instead, he’s now about two years into his job of practice manager for the five-physician Saint Luke’s Endocrinology and Diabetes Center.

“There’s not a challenge I encounter on a daily basis that I will shy away from,” he said.

He credited that self-confidence to a roughly three-month program where Saint Luke’s administrators identified and trained about two dozen standout employees for leadership positions.

Saint Luke’s ended the program after one go-round, amid belt-tightening due to the recession, but Dawn Murphy, senior vice president for human resources, said she hoped Saint Luke’s can resurrect the program through the $2 million “Grow Your Own” initiative from the Missouri Hospital Association.

Announced last month, the grant program aims to address a two-pronged workforce issue: vacancies created by the retirement of Baby Boomers and a growing need for patient services as more people gain health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The association expects to make grant applications available by March and begin making awards in the summer, said spokesman Dave Dillon. The maximum award will be $50,000, he said, and multi-hospital systems will be limited to applications from two locations.

One goal, Dillon said, is to create programs that hospitals around the state can duplicate.

An outside board of educators and nonprofit professionals will review the applications.

According to national and state data cited by the hospital association:

  • Approximately 500,000 Missourians could become insured through the Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges included in the Affordable Care Act
  • The nation could be short roughly 900,000 registered nurses within the next two decades
  • The Kansas City area has a health care workforce of about 31,000 employees. Nearly 4,000 new or vacated positions will need to be filled within the next six years and that only counts registered nurses, pharmacists, and medical scientists.

Murphy is on the advisory committee that developed the Grow Your Own initiative. So is CiCi Rojas, vice president for community engagement with Truman Medical Centers.

Grow Your Own was a natural next step from the tuition assistance programs the hospital association has, Murphy said.

“We have been at work on the scholarship piece to create new nurses, pharmacists, clinical educators and things like that,” she said. “Now we are looking at how do we invest in our current employees.”

Murphy said Saint Luke’s might also apply for a Grow Your Own grant to start a leadership development program for physicians interested in getting into management.

At Truman, Rojas said executives have been discussing ways the grant program could help them expand the workforce development offerings it runs through its Corporate Academy.

Two potential areas, she said, are professional development for information technology workers and a curriculum for the emerging field of community health worker.

Established in 2001 with Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, the academy works with a variety of outside educational institutions to help workers and their families with schooling.

They gained more than 150 degrees and certifications within the past year, according to data from Truman.

Hiring from within is cheaper than recruiting from the outside, Rojas said, and helps assure the employee fits well with the organization. For instance, she said, an entry-level food service or environmental services worker who move up already knows about the culture at Truman.

“They already understand who we are, what we do,” Rojas said. “They have an appreciation for us.”

For Dougherty at Saint Luke’s, his final project during the training program was developing a plan for phlebotomy trainees to rotate through various clinical departments. Strategic planning then was new to him.

“It was extremely foreign to me because I don’t possess a college degree,” he said. “That was part of what the excitement of the program was – learning those things. I knew what (strategic plans) were, but I had no idea of the intricacies of putting that together.”

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