How to Solve a Staffing Shortage by Reskilling Employees

How to Solve a Staffing Shortage by Reskilling Employees

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles trained nonclinical staff for patient care roles with an in-house curriculum and experiential learning opportunity.

The solution for a staffing shortage at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles materialized as a simple question from a mailroom clerk.

“How can I become a patient care partner?”

The bold question from the amiable clerk led supervisors on 5 East down a path to reskill nonclinical CHLA employees into clinical roles. Six months after the initiative began, five employees are working on the floor as patient care partners.

An unexpected solution to a staffing challenge

The floor, which specializes in acute medical/surgical care, had struggled to find external candidates for vacant care partner positions. “There was never a right match,” said Laura Tice, MSN, RN, CPN, NE-BC, a 5 East supervisor.

Applicants either couldn’t work full time, didn’t have the right skill set, or had never worked around children. “We knew something needed to be done, but we didn’t know how we were going to fix it,” said Cameron Grant, MPH, BSN, RN CPN, another 5 East supervisor.

In the fall of 2023, the solution literally walked onto the floor. A CHLA mailroom clerk who delivered packages to the floor had grown friendly with the team. His two brothers were working as care partners at CHLA, and he wanted to follow in their footsteps. One day, he asked how he could make it happen.

“That’s when we got this look in our eyes like, ‘This could be interesting,’” Tice said.

Reskilling nonclinical employees

The team created a curriculum that replicated certified nurse assistant (CNA) training programs and offered it to a cohort of five CHLA employees for free.

“A CNA course is very expensive,” said Sue Martinez, DNP, RN, CPN, NE-BC 5, another of the floor’s supervisors. “If we could provide it for them, we’d be giving them a gift of education and an entry into a different career path.”

The three-day training covered care partners’ essential tasks, such as taking vital signs, feeding and bathing patients, and swapping out linens. Once they learned the fundamentals, the final day of training was spent in the Las Madrinas Simulation Center where they applied newfound skills in situations that mimicked real circumstances the employees would have to manage.

“We created scenarios that were realistic, like a 4-year-old with asthma having trouble breathing and the parents don’t want you to touch him. Or you have to bathe baby, but, oh no, the IV fell out! What do you do now? We really challenged them,” said Hoo Everson, MSN, RN, CPN, NE-BC, another 5 East supervisor.

After the formal course and simulation, the employees spent several weeks working alongside veteran patient care partners as they performed the duties they would eventually do independently.

Assessing the intangibles

One aspect of the care partner job can’t be learned—soft skills like kindness, warmth, and caring that are crucial to helping families in a health emergency. The five employees in the first cohort – a former housekeeper, cafeteria worker, mailroom clerk, receptionist, and guest services attendant – brought those intangible skills to their roles.

“You can learn how to take vitals, how to take blood pressure, weigh a diaper,” Grant said. “But you can’t teach someone to be a human being who has empathy and compassion and treats others with respect. People can feel that when you walk into a room. If we can feel that through an interview, then those are the people we want to hire on our unit.”

Interviews for the second cohort are underway.

“It excites us to invest in these people because they’re showing us, ‘I want to do this. I want to be in health care, and I don’t know how to get there.’ We see their enthusiasm and commitment, so we’re saying, ‘We’re going to believe in you and we’re going to provide you with a stepping stone. And if you fall down, we’re going to help you get up,’” Martinez said.

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