13 health systems collaborate with high schools in $250M initiative to boost healthcare workforce

As the U.S. healthcare system stares down the barrel of a long-term labor shortage, a $250 million collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies and a slew of major health systems will start training and recruiting the next generation of healthcare workers right from their high school classrooms.

Announced Wednesday, the new initiative will work with the public school systems in 10 urban and rural communities. Its new or refurbished high schools will provide a combination of “traditional academic programming” and “specialized healthcare classes,” with graduates hired directly into healthcare roles “with family-sustaining wages,” per the announcement.

The partner health systems — a list that includes names like Mass General Brigham, HCA Healthcare, Northwell Health and Ballad Health — will co-develop the curriculum, provide existing employees as instructors and offer work-based learning opportunities. While students have the option to pursue post-secondary education after graduation, the systems have also committed to recruiting any student who meets their program’s graduation requirements with a job opening.

“For too long, our education system has failed to prepare students for good jobs in high-growth industries,” Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P., said in the announcement. “By combining classroom learning with hands-on experience, these specialized healthcare high schools will prepare students for careers with opportunities for growth and advancement. America needs more healthcare workers, and we need a stronger, larger middle-class — and this is a way to help accomplish both goals.”

The schools will have the capacity to serve almost 6,000 students and are set to open between 2024 and 2026.

The students will have opportunities to earn healthcare industry-relevant credentials, certifications and college credits. Of note, six school sites in rural Northeast Tennessee will use a hybrid virtual and in-person program to teach students.

Among the work-based learning experiences offered by the health systems for ninth and 10th graders are job-shadowing and skills practice in simulation labs, as well as paid internships and professional mentoring beginning in 11th grade. Ongoing part-time or full-time education will be subsidized for those who choose to begin working for a partner health system directly after graduation.

“What we plan to build together in Queens is bigger than just one school — it’s a visionary collaboration to improve public health and promote health equity in this city and beyond,” Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said in the announcement. “This is a new model for education that will create a better future for thousands of students and make a lasting impact on the future of healthcare for countless more.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies noted that successful programs developed through the initiative could be scaled elsewhere in the country as a long-term answer to the healthcare industry’s labor woes. Hiring challenges have exacerbated hospitals’ labor spending in recent years and, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, are projected to get worse as today’s two million unfilled healthcare industry jobs are expected to double by 3031.

“As healthcare providers continue to face persistent labor challenges, it is crucial that we develop innovative partnerships to respond to the challenges of today and invest in the healthcare leaders of tomorrow,” Anne Klibanski, M.D., president and CEO of Mass General Brigham, said. “Moreover, our work to dismantle generational health inequities depends on our ability to recruit, retain and support a diverse, culturally competent and highly skilled workforce. …  We are excited about the tremendous impact this expansion will have on our current and future workforce and the surrounding community.”

The full announced list of inaugural healthcare and education program partners, by region, are as follows.

Boston, MA:

Healthcare partner – Mass General Brigham

Education partner – Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (Horace Mann charter schools, Boston Public Schools)

Charlotte, NC:

Healthcare partner – Atrium Health

Education partner – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Dallas, TX:

Healthcare partner – Baylor Scott & White Health

Education partner – Uplift Education

Durham, NC:

Healthcare partner – Duke Health

Education partner – Durham Public Schools

Houston, TX:

Healthcare partner – Memorial Hermann Health System

Education partner – Aldine Independent School District

Nashville, TN:

Healthcare partners – HCA Healthcare TriStar, Vanderbilt Health, Ascension, National HealthCare Corporation

Education partner – Nurses Middle College

Northeast TN:

Healthcare partner – Ballad Health

Education partner – Northeast TN Public Schools (six sites)

New York, NY:

Healthcare partner – Northwell Health

Education partner – New York City Public Schools

Philadelphia, PA:

Healthcare partner – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Education partner – Mastery Schools

Demopolis, AL:

Healthcare partners – University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System and other state health systems and hospitals

Education partner – State of Alabama (contingent upon state funding)