Who Are Frontline Workers?

Frontline health care workers provide routine and essential services in all settings, including hospitals, outpatient care, behavioral health, long-term care, and home health care. They represent 50 percent of the health care workforce and are responsible for a range of operations including providing administrative, direct care, environmental, and technical services to patients, families, and caregivers. Ultimately, frontline workers form an organization’s backbone needed to deliver high-quality care and ensure an excellent patient experience.

Frontline workers are predominantly female and often represent the diverse communities served by their employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), frontline occupations generally earn median income levels less than $45,000 per year and require less than a bachelor’s degree, though regional differences do exist. The following table lists frontline health care occupations by occupational category:

 

Types of Frontline Health Care Workers
Category  Occupation

Direct Care

Medical assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, nursing aides, pharmacy aides and technicians, dental assistants, emergency medical technicians, patient care technicians, physical therapy assistants, respiratory therapy technicians, and surgical technicians, cardiovascular technicians, laboratory technicians.

Community and Public Health

Health educators, social and human services assistants, community health workers

Mental Health

Mental Health counselors, orderlies, psychiatric aides, and substance abuse counselors

Administration

Administrative assistants, medical records and health information technicians, medical transcriptionists, office clerks, and receptionists

Other

Centralized sterile processing technician, dietetic technicians, dietary aides, medical equipment preparers, occupational therapy assistants and aides, and recreational therapists, environmental service technicians, housekeepers, and laundry aides

Source: Adapted from Brookings Institute, Pavel et al., 2014. “Health Care Workers Report.

Stories of Success

CareerSTAT believes that all frontline workers should have opportunities to develop new skills, take on greater responsibilities, and move up with their organizations. Across the CareerSTAT network, thousands of employees at dozens health care organizations are filling critical roles and being rewarded with opportunity and growth.

Rashawn Builds New Skills at Baystate Medical Center

Rashawn Campbell - currently pursuing education to become a Respiratory Therapist as a result of BH Futures

Rashawn Campbell wanted to develop a full-time career in health care, but was unsure where and how to start. Prior to coming to Baystate Health, Rashawn had worked for a series of fast food restaurants and was originally hired as a cashier and food server in Baystate’s Culinary Department; however, he soon after starting his manager nominated him to attend the Baystate Health (BH) Futures program. In BH Futures, Rashawn attended multiple networking and career exploration events and shadowed multiple health care positions. From this process, Rashawn decided that he wanted to work more closely with patients and began preparing for a career as a respiratory therapist. With additional support from Baystate’s Tuition Reimbursement program, Rashawn has enrolled in a number of science courses at a local community college and hopes to be accepted into the Respiratory Therapy program.

Wendy Grows a Career at UnityPoint Health

unitypointwnedy

In 2012, Wendy Fausett started working for UnityPoint Health as a frontline employee working in housekeeping. Although Wendy wanted to advance herself at UnityPoint Health, she thought that her criminal background and a lack of formal higher education would prevent her from advancement. However, by working with UnityPoint’s Retention Specialist, Wendy realized that possessing the right skills was the most important factor in advancement and that her background would not stop her from securing a promotion. Enrolled in UnityPoint’s School at Work program, Wendy started developing managerial, interview, and professional skills, which allowed her to successfully apply for and secure a promotion as a housekeeping supervisor. Wendy’s training led to both career advancement and a wage increase of more than $5.00 per hour.