Senior Director, Nexus Montgomery and Population Health
We are pleased to start the new year with secure federal funding for PCC’s Building an Inclusive Healthcare Workforce: Lifting Underrepresented Residents into Healthcare Careers project. We can now move forward in building a pipeline that will supply Montgomery County’s six hospitals with more healthcare workers to represent the language and cultural needs of those they serve. We are grateful to Senator Chris Van Hollen, who supported our plan and made sure it was included in the recent $1.7 trillion federal government budget package that was approved last month.
The increasing shortage of healthcare workers we’ve seen in recent years, both locally and nationally, was exacerbated by the pandemic. Long hours and difficult work conditions drove many out of the healthcare field. And as efforts were made to replace them, it was clear that we not only needed more healthcare workers, we needed workers who reflected the racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the people they served. To be effective, healthcare workers need to be able to communicate in patients’ languages and provide culturally appropriate care.
At the same time, communities with under-employed residents, many from diverse cultures who also were fluent in languages other than English, needed new employment opportunities. Service or hospitality jobs lost during the pandemic had not returned. With training, we knew these individuals could benefit from the stability of a healthcare career, which offers a variety of relatively well-paying entry-level opportunities and many options for advancement.
This PCC project funds expanded training at Montgomery College for 200 additional healthcare workers, and it includes scholarships and support services for under-employed residents who lack the resources needed to access the training for a healthcare career and a brighter economic future.
The PCC will work with community partners to identify students for the new workforce program. Those partners include the American Muslim Senior Society, Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER), Cross Community, CASA, and the Chinese Culture and Community Center (CCACC). The program will provide paid training sessions and outreach and social support stipends.
Hospital efforts to hire healthcare staff through agencies are costly and unsustainable. Even a one-time increase in the local workforce will create a lasting impact by adding technical personnel to reduce the workload of licensed individuals. The American College of Healthcare Executives Journal of Healthcare Management reports that additional layers of unlicensed healthcare support staff can free up time for higher-level care by nurses and other licensed providers. And the near-term opportunities for increased workforce supply can disrupt generational poverty, which is a significant community benefit.
That’s why the Primary Care Coalition and its partners Nexus Montgomery (our regional partnership of hospitals) and Montgomery College have developed this project to build a strong and sustainable healthcare workforce. We expect that it will begin to solve the healthcare crisis in our community and will significantly enhance the level of patient care for our residents.