Ur­ban hos­pi­tals boost lo­cal hir­ing

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PRACTICES - By Lisa Schencker

When Univer­sity of Chicago Medicine held a job fair at a lo­cal church a couple of years ago, hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials ex­pected a few hun­dred at­ten­dees. To their sur­prise, about 1,100 South Side res­i­dents showed up. The Univer­sity of Chicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter hired more than 100 of the ap­pli­cants.

“That’s part of our DNA as one of the largest em­ploy­ers on the South Side— to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple who truly want jobs, understand what we do in health­care, and want to make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives,” said Daryl Wilk­er­son, the sys­tem’s vice pres­i­dent of sup­port ser­vices.

The hos­pi­tal be­gan part­ner­ing with area churches and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions about 10 years ago in an ef­fort to boost lo­cal hir­ing. The hos­pi­tal is in the af­flu­ent, pre­dom­i­nantly white Hyde Park neigh­bor­hood, where the Oba­mas have a home. Sur­round­ing Hyde Park are neigh­bor­hoods that are pre­dom­i­nantly low­er­in­come and black.

Like UChicago, other ur­ban hos­pi­tals also are try­ing to ad­dress their com­mu­ni­ties’ eco­nomic needs by step­ping up lo­cal hir­ing, said Erika Poethig, di­rec­tor of ur­ban pol­icy ini­tia­tives at the Ur­ban In­sti­tute. They re­al­ize that em­ploy­ment is re­lated to good health, and that pro­vid­ing jobs is one of the most im­por­tant things they can do to help their com­mu­ni­ties. “When you have higher un­em­ploy­ment and greater in­ci­dence of poverty, this has a health con­se­quence,” Poethig said.

Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal each sum­mer em­ploys hun­dreds of high school and col­lege stu­dents from eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas in Bos­ton. The Cleve­land Clinic of­fers paid in­tern­ships to city pub­lic-school stu­dents. Penn Medicine has en­rolled more than 225 West Philadel­phia high school stu­dents in a two-year work­study pro­gram that pre­pares them for med­i­cal jobs.

Re­spond­ing to this year’s un­rest in Bal­ti­more, Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal and Health Sys­tem an­nounced Hop­kin­sLo­cal, an ini­tia­tive aimed at fill­ing more jobs with res­i­dents from dis­tressed Bal­ti­more neigh­bor­hoods and in­creas­ing the use of mi­nor­ity con­trac­tors and ven­dors from those ar­eas. Ex­plain­ing the move, the pres­i­dents of Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity and the Hop­kins health sys­tem wrote, “The health and well-be­ing of Johns Hop­kins are in­ex­tri­ca­bly tied to the phys­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic well-be­ing of Bal­ti­more.”

By hir­ing lo­cally, hos­pi­tals get employees who bet­ter understand the com­mu­nity they serve. And lo­cal hir­ing might be a way for not-for-profit hos­pi­tals to show they are pro­vid­ing the com­mu­nity ben­e­fit that jus­ti­fies their tax-ex­empt sta­tus, Poethig said. That’s in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as the Af­ford­able Care Act re­duces the need for char­ity care.

At the UChicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter, 23.3% of employees live on the South Side of the city. Leif Elsmo, the sys­tem’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity af­fairs, said that while lo­cal hir­ing is part of how his or­ga­ni­za­tion demon­strates com­mu­nity ben­e­fit, there are broader rea­sons for this hir­ing ap­proach. “There were un­em­ploy­ment is­sues that ex­isted in many of the neigh­bor­hoods around us, and it just made sense to fig­ure out who’s work­ing on th­ese is­sues, who’s train­ing peo­ple, and how we can con­nect to the com­mu­ni­ties around us,” he said.

The hos­pi­tal has found par­tic­u­lar suc­cess in hir­ing lo­cals through part­ner­ships with com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, which help find can­di­dates with the right skills and in­ter­ests and of­ten pro­vide job-readi­ness train­ing. “It’s not enough to just post jobs,” Elsmo said. “You have to be in col­lab­o­ra­tion with dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity groups to get peo­ple into the process.”

Wilk­er­son, who su­per­vises food ser­vice, se­cu­rity, house­keep­ing, pa­tient trans­porta­tion and park­ing, said the part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions help the hos­pi­tal find can­di­dates who are pas­sion­ate about cus­tomer ser­vice. “We can train you for the skill, but your at­ti­tude is what we really want,” he said. “We’ll go deep to get a per­son with a tremen­dous at­ti­tude.”

One such part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tion is Skills for Chicagoland’s Fu­ture, a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship that matches busi­nesses with qual­i­fied peo­ple who are un­em­ployed or un­der­em­ployed. That pro­gram con­nected the hos­pi­tal with life­long South Side res­i­dent Anna Pear­son, who had been work­ing as a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer in down­town Chicago.

Af­ter two in­ter­views with Skills for Chicagoland and two more at the hos­pi­tal, Pear­son landed a job as a pub­lic-safety co­or­di­na­tor at UChicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter, which is much closer to her home.

Pear­son, 30, who has been work­ing at the hos­pi­tal for more than a year, greets and di­rects pa­tients and fam­ily mem­bers when they ar­rive at the med­i­cal cen­ter. “I get to work with dif­fer­ent peo­ple and I get to be of as­sis­tance,” she said. “Peo­ple trust you.”

She hopes to be­come a man­ager one day. The univer­sity’s lo­cal hir­ing pro­gram, she said, “gives ev­ery­body, no mat­ter where you’re from, a chance to ex­cel in life and build a ca­reer.”

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