By the time Jestina King began working for Calvary Urgent Care, she had spent years as a single mom, fighting to support her family through low-paying and inconsistent hourly jobs at fast food restaurants and car washes. A doctor’s appointment while she was pregnant with her second child sparked her interest in becoming an ultrasound technician, but she wasn’t sure how to make the leap. Finally, frustrated with struggling to pay rent month after month, she enrolled in a program at the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP).
She worked hard to become a limited medical radiologic technologist (LMRT), eventually making her way to us. Soon after starting her new career, she recognized that by continuing her education and earning an associate’s degree in radiologic technology (RT), she could increase her salary and improve the lives of her three children. But she worried about balancing her work and hectic life schedule with the demands of furthering her education.
Many working students in health care share her concern, and it is an issue the industry must address to ensure the well-being of both employees and patients.
The health care industry faces a growing shortage of workers. Employee turnover is high — and expensive. It costs companies an average of $15,000 to replace just one worker, according to the Work Institute’s 2017 retention report. In the health care field, where churn can have a direct and profound impact on patient outcomes, combatting turnover goes far beyond dollars and cents. The health of a community is at stake.
While many people assume that pay is the primary culprit in turnover, a 2018 LinkedIn Learning study found that 94% of employees would stay longer at a company that invested in their development. While employees appreciate it when their companies invest in benefits like tuition reimbursement, there are other important ways employers can — and should — support their workers. Here are four important ways, other than paying tuition and fees, that employers can help their employees pursue additional education and, ultimately, advance in their careers.
Provide Stability by Allowing Employees to Keep Their Jobs
By enrolling in an online RT program, Jestina was able to balance the competing priorities in her life that are common to working adults. The online coursework allowed her to keep working in her position, and we were committed to providing her with stability and support. We encouraged her to use our computers for her classwork and to study whenever she was not with a patient.
Provide a Flexible Work Schedule
When Jestina went back to college, we helped her organize her work schedule so she could fit in the courses she needed while still earning a paycheck and caring for patients.
It wasn’t easy; organizing a hospital’s schedule is already a little like playing Tetris. But we knew it would be worth it. We knew the same go-getter spirit that had led Jestina to pursue her associate’s degree would carry her to graduation — if we made sure she had the support and time she needed to focus on her education.
Flexible scheduling can have multiple benefits for the employee and the organization. According to an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers in health services are more likely than organizations in other industries to view flexible work as an important tool to attract and retain candidates.
Offer Opportunities for Advancement After an Employee Upskills
Upskilling should be a win-win. Jestina was able to further her education and her career, and we gained a talented medical technician. She now leads our X-ray department, while other workers we have supported in this fashion have gone on to nursing or medical school. By allowing employees to pursue education while working, employers can expand their talent pipeline and reduce costs.
Be Supportive When Complications Arise
Mindset is crucial to success, and it goes a long way when people see that their employers support their education decisions. We must provide all workers who are serious about their education not just with the time they need to attend class and study but with the ability to adapt when complications arise. And we must encourage and empower them to keep moving forward with the knowledge that we have their backs.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to state that Jestina attended the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP).