Improving Retention by Making Entry-Level Healthcare Jobs Better

In the greater Dallas-Fort Worth region, major health systems have a problem recruiting and retaining patient care technicians (PCTs). Parkland Hospital, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Methodist Health System are working together with Pathways to Work and the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council (DFWHC) Foundation to address the issue and improve the quality of the jobs.

Pathways to Work is one of the 10 sites in the National Fund network that received grant funding to work directly with employers to implement business practice changes that improve job quality and increase business competitiveness. Andrea Glispie, Director of Pathways to Work, recently sat down with the National Fund to talk about the work in Dallas and the rapid adoption of new practices by healthcare providers.


How did the hospitals begin the process of implementing changes and adopting best practices?

Initially, hospitals were unsure how to solve PCT recruiting and retention issues. So, we organized a series of focus groups with PCTs to get feedback about their positions. These focus groups were eye-opening for HR and clinical leaders. The responses showed that many of workers’ issues went beyond simply wages. In fact, many of the elements of the National Fund’s Job Design Framework were mentioned, like improved scheduling, increased recognition, educational benefits, and career paths. Workers felt that these elements of their jobs were missing and having them would improve the positions tremendously. After presenting this feedback, hospital leaders were eager to begin changing practices to align more with what the workers felt could be improved.


Can you describe some of the practices the participating organizations are considering?

Each hospital and health system has different needs, so we have seen a wide array of practices being adopted. Based on the focus group findings, each health system was asked to implement at least three interventions, one from each of the following categories:

  • Facilitate peer support, mentoring, and feedback loops
  • Develop career maps
  • Launch public recognition programs

CareerSTAT Healthcare Employer Academy participant Parkland has launched a new recognition program for PCTs. Methodist Health System is developing career maps that provide their frontline workforce with a defined pathway to go beyond their entry-level position. UT Southwestern will enhance PCT onboarding by implementing a PCT residency program and PCT preceptor training. Additionally, there is a concerted effort to integrate these efforts into HR policy and business operations. Furthermore, we have seen at least one employer look at raising the wages of their PCTs. Every employer we are working with has shown a true interest in and dedication to making real changes that improve the quality of their frontline positions.


What role do Industry Partnerships play in accelerating change and encouraging businesses to adopt best practices?

Industry Partnerships are a key to engaging with a larger set of employers than the core group we are working with. These partnerships bring together leading healthcare organizations to regularly discuss workforce issues facing their industry. With so many local healthcare leaders gathered together, these meetings are the perfect place to discuss the benefits of changing practices. Increased exposure to new ideas and practices allows each organization to choose the strategies that will work best for them. The North Texas Healthcare Employers Learning Consortium is a place where healthcare leaders are able to collectively work to improve frontline positions, like PCTs. Even though the specific strategies chosen by each organization may be unique to their needs, there is an industry-wide effort to make change. Once there is buy-in across the industry, change comes easier, as no one wants to be left behind.


What is a key takeaway to succeed in improving job quality for frontline healthcare workers?

Our key to success has been to engage employers early and build off of existing relationships established through DFWHC Foundation. We recognize employers are the engine that drives the machine of change for their employees, but it’s important to reinforce that changing practices is imperative to improving recruitment and retention of frontline workers. While this may initially seem like a big challenge, leveraging the tight labor market makes it easier to overcome. It’s important to never underestimate the readiness of the community to take a step forward and be innovative.

*This conversation was edited lightly and published in full.