To ensure a continued supply of critical front-line workers in its rural corner of Massachusetts, Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington has designed a program called Grow Your Own that begins as early as seventh grade.
"Our vacancy rate is not real high, but because we're in such a rural area, we knew that recruiting was not going to be our strong point," says Gayle Armstrong, director of employee health. "It was the whole issue of the nursing shortage and the radiology shortage. Those both are beginning to hit our area hard."
Fairview's efforts have earned the 25-bed hospital an honorable mention in the Spirit of Excellence team award. The program includes an internship that lets seventh- and eighth-graders get acquainted with healthcare, for-credit internships for high school students and a National Youth Leadership Program that has attracted 168 students over three years.
Fairview also works hard to develop its own staff, paying tuition along with matching state grants to encourage workers to climb the career ladder. To date, 50% of certified nursing assistants; 67% of ER, laboratory, maternity and surgical techs; and 67% of licensed practical nurses have obtained their registered nursing degree, while 13% of RNs have gone to a bachelor's degree and 3% of those have received a master's degree.
"The next group we're looking at is elementary (school)," Armstrong says. "We feel that (junior high) is too late."