Courage is a funny thing. Rarely do the courageous see themselves that way. It is like a muscle; by exercising courage, you can strengthen your resolve. It’s also like a virus; courage can be contagious.
Hospitals and health systems just finished a weeklong observance to honor health care workers for their essential roles, contributions to our society and – especially this year – determination throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We at Carilion Clinic recognize them also for their deep resolve and contagious courage. And we’re finding new ways to invite others to join our ranks.
The past 12 months have been especially trying for caregivers; long shifts, complex cases, and staff shortages made early 2022 particularly challenging. The health care workers shortage is big news right now, yet it isn’t a new problem. From the beginning of Carilion’s history, almost 125 years ago, we’ve needed to find solutions to fill workforce gaps in order to serve our patients and community.
In 1900, the Roanoke Hospital Association planned a training school for nurses. Half a century later, education was still at the forefront when Roanoke Memorial Hospital and Roanoke City Public Schools created a school of practical nursing. Other nursing schools cropped up in the region in the decades that followed. A few years ago, Radford University acquired Jefferson College of Health Sciences, creating Radford University Carilion, one of Virginia’s largest nursing and allied health programs.
Educating courageous and passionate health care workers is our tradition – a tradition evident in our more recent initiatives and innovations. For instance, the important work we did in the 1950s with Roanoke City Public Schools became a forerunner to today’s exciting regional collaboration of educators, health care employers and economic development professionals focused on raising health and life sciences education standards. The Blue Ridge Partnership for Health Science Careers (BRPHSC) aims to tie instruction and training to health care employers’ needs for a skilled workforce.
The collaboration’s partners are actively engaged with the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board, regional GO Virginia economic development councils, public school systems and higher education institutions to address health care workforce shortages. It’s already a model for the Commonwealth of Virginia. State support will help address dual enrollment costs, a lack of certified instructors, educational capacity and tuition assistance for continuing education and credentials.
Despite health care’s high rates of pay and career growth opportunities, we’ve discovered many of our young people remain uninformed about the possibilities. We’re optimistic that the partnership will help introduce the rewards of health care careers to the next generation in our region and statewide.
When young people find their passion in health care, they’ll help us improve our community’s access to care, address health inequities, heal the sick and strengthen our economy.
Those are lofty goals, so let’s make them more concrete. Meet Sara. Her story is just being written, but let’s imagine her possibilities.
Sara is a middle school student fascinated by the phlebotomist who draws her blood when she visits her doctor. Sara’s guidance counselor can provide Sara with the pathway to obtaining the training and certification to become a phlebotomist. Earning an associate degree helps Sara land her first health care job. She decides to return to school locally to further her career, studying sonography – and her employer assists in paying tuition. Over time, Sara learns even more clinical skills and climbs to a leadership position, all while supported by her employer.
Now imagine Sara and thousands of others like her staying to live and work in our region. They’ll heal and help their communities, earn good wages and contribute to humanity in ways unimaginable in other professions.
Your skills and talents are in demand. Now is the time to join our team. Surround yourself with a group of courageous, compassionate and curious caregivers. We promise you’ll work hard – physically, mentally and emotionally – and be challenged. You’ll put your community first, and even though there will be difficult days, your efforts will have an untold impact.
Health care is not just a job; it’s a calling. Thank you to the many dedicated healthcare professionals we’re privileged to have as colleagues. To anyone who feels called to make healthcare your career, there’s never been a better time to join us.
Nancy Howell Agee is president and chief executive officer of Carilion Clinic. Jeanne Armentrout is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Carilion Clinic. They began their careers as bedside nurses.
Disclosure: Carilion is one of our donors, but donors have no say in news decisions. See our policy.