Kathleen Gallo, chief learning officer and senior vice president of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System (North Shore-LIJ), is preparing for the “perfect storm” of baby boomer retirement. “The clouds are gathering on the horizon, the barometer is falling, the wind is starting to shift, and everyone needs to start planning for impact now,” she said.
North Shore-LIJ is a 17-hospital network with more than 35,000 employees that is well into the process of planning for not only the baby boomers’ exit as employees, but also their entrance as new patients. According to Gallo, the entire organization is patient-focused. Consequently, any change in this population is going to impact employee skills and competencies. New strategies, competencies and skills are required in cardiology, neuroscience, oncology and orthopedics that take into account this aging population. “Older people are more prone to heart problems, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and orthopedic conditions,” Gallo said.
To meet the ever-changing demands, North Shore-LIJ works closely with the deans of local educational institutions to make sure curricula remain relevant to changing health care market needs. North Shore-LIJ regularly develops lists of hard-to-fill positions—30, 60 and 90 days out—and builds a matrix of these positions against the schools that provide the appropriate education to fill them. “We partner with these schools to create a pipeline of employees,” Gallo said.
Another partnership is in nursing. “North Shore-LIJ has a partnership with a local nursing school,” Gallo said. “We pay the tuition for our employees and provide the classes on-site, while they continue to work for us. Again, we are creating our own pipeline with our own employees who have interest in nursing.”
Aimed at maximizing the gender pool, North Shore-LIJ encourages qualified male emergency professionals, who normally retire in their 40s, to go into nursing as a second career. “We have a program for employees to become emergency medical technicians (EMTs), a program for EMTs to become paramedics, and a path for our paramedics to become registered nurses if they choose. Caregivers in the health care industry are primarily female. This program helps fill the need for more advanced emergency workers and nurses while adding to diversity of thought and experience to our health care teams,” Gallo said.
North Shore-LIJ is also focused on attracting and retaining employees. There is no mandatory retirement age, and a 403(b) program promotes retention—the longer you stay, the greater the payout. More importantly, North Shore-LIJ offers employees ongoing learning opportunities through the Center for Innovation and Learning (CLI) and the ability to move within the 17-hospital network. “We want people to see our organization as an exciting and challenging place to work and learn,” Gallo said. “We provide ‘stretch assignments’ for our high potentials by moving them throughout the organization. This forces us to plan for succession and to meet on a regular basis to identify our high potentials.”
As the employee population ages, North Shore-LIJ also is actively capturing knowledge. In the highly procedural world of health care, the major challenge, is “getting it out of people’s heads. All procedures are written, reviewed and revised on a regular basis and indexed by revision date,” Gallo said. “For example, in our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) division, within 24 hours of a major event, such as an emergency response to a heart attack, the response team debriefs and documents the process so that the lessons learned can be used to improve patient care and to benefit other teams who find themselves in similar situations.”
Technology also is being employed as a tool to better respond to the changing patient population. This includes clinical information systems that use laptops to eliminate paperwork in a future high-tech intensive care unit (ICU), where all patients could be monitored from a central site. “The technology is still immature, but it is close,” Gallo said. “The technology is the easy part. The real challenge is around change management. How do you get people to use technology in the right way? This is an opportunity to get computer-savvy Generation X and Ys to assist their older team members.”
By understanding both its patient and employee demographics, partnering with the academic community to impact its supply chain of current and future employees, creating programs that retain, maximize and grow its human capital, engaging in capturing and revising knowledge and procedures, and introducing key technologies via a change management model, North Shore-LIJ is ready for the perfect storm.
James J. L’Allier, Ph.D., is chief learning officer and vice president, research and development for Thomson NETg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Filed under: Technology