How Dartmouth-Hitchcock, NewYork-Presbyterian are addressing healthcare’s changing workforce

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is investing in a workforce readiness institute to address employment gaps. (Dartmouth-Hitchcock)(Courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock)

Located on the banks of the Connecticut River on the border of Vermont, Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system is New Hampshire's only academic medical center.

It's also, arguably, the most rural academic medical center in the country.

And despite its national reputation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's location can be a big hurdle when it comes to attracting workers from outside the region to fill the gaps left by New Hampshire's aging workforce, said the system's CEO Joanne Conroy, M.D.

So, in 2014, the system launched what it called a workforce readiness institute to train residents in the community—in some cases, free of charge—for jobs they needed to fill in healthcare such as pharmacy technicians or surgical technicians.

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They also partnered with community groups to build affordable, sustainable housing for its workers.

“We’re recruiting people with a real commitment to the region,” Conroy said on Thursday, speaking in D.C. at the U.S. News & World Report’s Healthcare of Tomorrow Conference. She was part of a panel addressing tactics health systems are using as they are “redesigning” their workforces.

It's a critical topic. That the healthcare industry faces a dearth of workers is no secret. The shortage of physicians alone is expected to reach 120,000 by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

So far, Conroy said, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's program has been making an impact. Twenty percent of its enrollees are veterans and a significant number of enrollees are single parents. Forty percent are underemployed and an additional 30% are unemployed.

Meanwhile, NewYork-Presbyterian officials said they turned their focus to drawing highly educated workers to some of its nonclinical roles by directly addressing concerns from people at risk of falling victim to automation.

Specifically, they are providing additional training to enhance skills or “upskill” them, or setting a clear trajectory for people to advance within NewYork-Presbyterian.

“Everyone wants to achieve personal success,” said Shaun Smith, senior vice president and chief of human resources.

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The system is also offering internal internships and job rotations to help people diversify and strengthen their skill sets, and has seminars in crucial topics like resume-building, he said. NewYork-Presbyterian will also in January launch a “university” aimed at helping strengthen its existing workforce and attract new workers.

They are also focusing on concerns that can impact recruitment and retention, such as workplace harm and taking steps to address those concerns by investing in lifting equipment, for example, to prevent physical injury and providing mental health support to avoid burnout.

“We need to find common values, and really rethink how we want to communicate with people,” Smith said.