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How Saint Alphonsus responds to shortage of health-care workers

The new Saint Alphonsus Birkeland Maternity Center in Nampa in 2015.
The new Saint Alphonsus Birkeland Maternity Center in Nampa in 2015. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Come 2017, Saint Alphonsus Health System will open a replacement hospital near the freeway in Nampa, an emergency medical plaza on 12th Avenue in Nampa and other clinics across the Treasure Valley. That means we must look now to fill current and upcoming vacancies with compassionate, knowledgeable, motivated people.

The nation has been faced with a shortage of health care workers. I have been asked by many in our community how we deal with that as staffing needs grow. The answer lies in creativity in programs, collaboration in partnerships, investment in our current and prospective employees, and telling the story of our mission and values.

With health care workers in demand, median annual wages for health occupations are higher than for most other occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more jobs will be added in health care than any other occupation over the next 10 years. That means we must pay competitive rates to attract and retain our health care workers and constantly monitor the market for changes.

Consider what we offer nurses. A nurse’s wages can be increased by education, years of experience and what we call clinical ladders — a structured system that rewards experience and training. Scholarships and tuition reimbursements for advanced degrees are also available. So are reimbursements to obtain specialty certifications. So are leadership courses.

Consider how we support the school-to-work pipeline. To help our local schools provide us with quality graduates, we partner with them. We provide guest speakers and in-hospital training. We donated a da Vinci Surgical System to the College of Western Idaho for students to gain hands-on technical knowledge.

We also recruit across the country with messaging about our organization’s mission. We use cutting-edge online recruitment and other creative pipelines to showcase the Treasure Valley lifestyle and the benefits unique to Saint Alphonsus.

With many health care professionals nearing retirement and an aging population that needs more medical services, there is pressure to fill these jobs. By getting creative in recruitment and retention efforts, we are able to compete with anyone in the country for the best employees.

Heather Sprague is the chief human resources officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System, responsible for all human resource functions for Saint Alphonsus facilities and staff from Boise to Baker City. This column appears in the Sept. 21-Oct. 18, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on human resources and workforce development. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).

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