Military program goes national
Inova to expand military program to meet demand
AVirginia hospital system’s program to help military families find careers in medicine is seeking more funding and employer support to expand its reach on a national scale. Inova Health System, based in Falls Church, Va., plans to announce the countrywide expansion of Military to Medicine this week, spurred by a recent interest in private organizations such as the American Hospital Association to join forces with Inova on this effort, and an urgent need to replenish the nation’s healthcare workforce.
The not-for-profit program began as a recruitment initiative in partnership with the Army Reserve Employer Partnership Office and the Defense Department in 2008, and has since placed more than 350 people in healthcare jobs (Feb. 15, p. 26).
Technically, the program has always had a national reach, said Daniel Nichols, the program’s executive director. Inova, however, felt “this was the right time to make this a national program” in wake of several factors, he said.
Military to Medicine was showing signs of success on a regional scale and the new health reform law’s addition of 32 million patients would require a vast expansion of a workforce already suffering from personnel shortages.
“In March alone, we received 600 inquiries for assistance, up from 100 a month when we first started” from military personnel and/or their family members, Nichols said. As a result, the program’s reach is expanding—in some cases in other parts of the world. As an example, “we’ve been helping out an individual in Alaska, plus spouses living with servicemen in Guam and Japan” to find medical careers, he added.
Daniels said there are more than 650,000 military spouses stationed in the U.S. Nearly 80% of these spouses want a career, but frequent relocations make this difficult. “We’re here to make sure they have the training and skills necessary for portable careers in healthcare.”
The overarching goal of the program is to prepare a healthcare workforce, targeting military families to help recruit them into jobs. Allied health, nursing, radiation technology, respiratory therapy, and surgical services are some of the careers for which five-hospital Inova prepares the trainees. The program has paid some personal dividends for Inova as well, increasing its oneyear retention rates for military personnel and new hires at Inova from 64% to 82%, and reducing its registered nurse vacancy rates from 15% to 3% over the three years of the operation.
Inova’s program has generated a great deal of attention in the healthcare community and as a result has gained some more private and public partners beyond the Army Reserve, including the Navy, and, recently, the AHA, Nichols said.
Specifically, the National Healthcare Career Network, a job board created by the AHA, its subsidiary AHA Solutions and other organizations, will be helping military members and their families customize their job search in medicine.
The Military to Medicine program “signed on to the career network as our latest network partner,” said Tony Burke, AHA’s senior vice president and president and CEO of AHA Solutions. The network features jobs from the AHA and more than 200 other healthcare trade associations across the country.
The goal is to shorten the time it takes to identify and fill positions with qualified candidates, Burke said. In turn, “hospitals see the return on their dollars spent to recruit people go up,” he said.
According to Nichols, Inova has also become the official military channel for the National Healthcare Career Network.
At Military to Medicine’s inception, Inova was working with 144 employers to help military people and their family members find jobs. Now, through the AHA’s employer network, “we’re hoping to expand that to several thousand” employers, he said.
Aiming for a national reach with its Military to Medicine program requires money, and Nichols said he hopes to acquire additional funding partners to support this expansion.
To date, Inova has fronted more than $3 million to support the healthcare training and placement opportunities of the extended military family, and has since been given $2 million in additional commitments by various philanthropic organizations and businesses this year. “We’re continuing to seek assistance out there,” Nichols said.
He estimates Inova will need an additional $3 million to keep the program alive on a national scale.
At this point, plans to seek funding from the Army Reserve or any other federal source are off the table. The reason is, “We value the in-kind donations that our federal partners offer, and once money enters the situation, the discussion changes. This is the same reason that we do not currently charge employers when they hire a candidate that we have referred to them, because there is a great deal of value that can be shared outside of a monetary donation,” he said.
This doesn’t mean that Inova won’t be seeking funding in the future, “but when we ask for financial assistance, we will do so with a clear business plan that makes sense for all parties involved,” he said.
Aside from additional funding, Inova is also seeking partnerships to help research the different licensure requirements needed for each state, Nichols said. The program has already built its first chapter office in Washington state, and is planning to add chapters to other states, like Texas. “The goal is to have a chapter in every state,” he said.
Nichols: “The goal is to have a chapter in every state.”
Burke: “Hospitals see the return on their dollars spent” go up.