Business Leader Series: MJ Ryan, Partners HealthCare

MJ Ryan is the Director of Workforce Development at Partners HealthCare and a key leader in delivering technical assistance to the 11 healthcare organizations participating in the CareerSTAT Healthcare Workforce Development Academy. As a Champion organization with a long history of investing in the skills and careers of their frontline employees, Partners is exceptional in its commitment to helping other organizations develop successful advancement programs. This blog series will feature conversations with the workforce professionals that have been critical in the development of this innovative Academy.
The following conversation with MJ Ryan was edited lightly and published in full.

Partners HealthCare has been a key leader in developing CareerSTAT’s Healthcare Workforce Development Academy and delivering technical assistance to the participating organizations. Why is peer-learning so important and what drives you to share your successes, challenges and lessons with your peers?

I believe that there is a great deal of important work going on across the country in the Healthcare Workforce Development arena, and sharing best practices helps to reduce redundancy, increase efficiency and help to inform not only those hearing about the work, but those doing it. When program information and processes are shared among peers, often the questions and comments that arise can lead to improvements and new ideas for the program being presented. Varying perpectives help us all to create, improve, and refine what we are doing, which, in the end, gives us the ability to better support those we are trying to serve.

Re-inventing wheels is unnecessary and costly. By creating a network of peers, willing to share their successes as well as their challenges, new programs can be developed and implemented with “eyes wide open.”

How has participating in CareerSTAT and the development of the Academy impacted Partners HeatlhCare? Have you learned about new approaches or seen your efforts in a different light as a result?

Every time I engage with this group, whether as a presenter or attendee, I learn something new. I have followed up directly with “my new colleagues” many times and shared their information and ideas internally as well as externally.

It is so great to hear how many people have approached similar issues in very different ways; it helps to see things that may have once been barriers, as opportunities. For example, some hospitals are having significant success working with individuals who are reentering the community after serving time in correctional facilities. This is something generally considered a barrier in our sector; seeing it work allows us to look at things differently and reconsider what is actually possible rather than putting up false barriers for individuals who need a chance. It helps us inform our leadership and try to change policies when we are able to show that another, highly respected organization has creatively addressed issues and populations once considered impossible to hire and have shown positive results.

In your opinion, what is Partners’ formula for sustaining this work? In other words, what are you most excited to share with the CareerSTAT network and spread to other organizations?

I think Partners’ innovative approach to increasing access to education for all through online learning and support is valuable to share. We have learned a lot over the past many years in this area, and I feel that we have figured out the right balance between online access and human intervention (coaching and support) to foster success for many who may otherwise not have access to higher education.

For healthcare organizations not currently involved in CareerSTAT, what can they learn from joining and participating?

As I stated earlier, there is nothing more valuable than the experience of others. Most healthcare organizations struggle with similar issues, and CareerSTAT offers the advantage of understanding what other are doing to address these shared challenges. I would guess that we have all reached out to others in the past when we have “accidentally” heard of an interesting approach, partnership or program, but the CareerSTAT network has created an easy, readily available community of practice. The peer learning and sharing is incredibly powerful.

The National Fund and CareerSTAT convenings are also valuable, and a great way to put names with faces and spend more time interacting, but the Academy activities have added a new level of intimacy and sharing among dozens of healthcare workforce development professionals. The TA Committee learns as much as the emerging leaders at every event, and having the ability to develop lasting and valuable relationships from like minded people is an opportunity not to be missed. I am grateful for CareerSTAT and highly recommend it to others.

Kelly Aiken is a force. She is a thought leader and an incomparable convener and network builder! Glad she is on our “team!”