School at Work (SAW®), a career development system for entry-level healthcare employees, has proven to develop viable paths for career progression and shown significant changes in day-to-day performance in frontline employees at Emory Healthcare, according to Anne Nelson, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness and Talent Management. Nelson goes on to tell us that participants’ supervisors have said that
these graduates are more willing to take initiative and speak up, now that they feel like they have a voice.
Emory Healthcare, a leader in innovation, has a celebrated history of stellar accolades ranging from positive patient satisfaction scores to its advocacy for the frontline non-clinical workforce. Emory Healthcare is the only National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center in Georgia and the only health system in Georgia with three Magnet-designated hospitals. Nationally ranked for quality among the top ten percent of academic medical centers in the U.S according to Press GaneyEmory Healthcare continues to set the standard for all aspects of care in Georgia time and time again.
Recently recognized as a 2019 CareerSTAT Frontline Healthcare Worker Emerging Champion, Emory Healthcare uses SAW® to provide frontline workers with a stepping-stone into certificate or degree programs. SAW® is a comprehensive program that strengthens communication, grammar, reading, and writing skills as well as providing a well-developed career plan within the organization. A typical SAW student has a high school diploma or GED and works in Dietary, Environmental Services, Housekeeping, as a Nurse Aide or in an entry-level office position. Using adult learning principles with a Blended Learning Model, SAW® has produced completion rates considered best practice in adult-learning.
Debra Longo, Corporate Director of Organizational Development and Learning Services at Emory says, “we long to find the right formulas, processes, and approaches to retain our frontline workers. There’s such a competition in the market for so many positions that we need that are critical to the business of healthcare.
SAW® gives us a chance, to engage some of our frontline workers in learning and in the mission of the Healthcare System.”
Sandra Barber, Emory’s Training Specialist and SAW Coach of 7 years, says “From a Coach’s perspective, you get to see folks who come in as frontline workers who have some very low confidence around their potential and their abilities in the skill development area. Barber goes on to say, “Once they complete SAW®, the associate feels more connected to the organization. When they’re back at work, they have a better sense of their ‘Why?’. You realize that your role is much larger than you and that your intent as well as your impact matters. They feel like they have a future in the organization.”
When setting their new five-year OE plan, Nelson wants to continue to outline expectations, provide resources and training, and measure the outcomes associated with programs. “We look at our progression – the number of people who graduate from SAW® that then go into our Emerging Leaders program and our New Leader Foundation program.”
With SAW® as a contributing factor, Nelson states, “We have seen career progression, advancement into leadership roles, and leaders recognizing significant changes in performance for those who have completed SAW. I want to make sure that it’s hardwired into internal career progression at Emory Healthcare.”
Nelson also speaks to the efforts she made to facilitate the connection between the executive team and the SAW® students. “For our first graduation, we invited the executive team including the Chief Executive Officer, at the time John Fox. John was so incredibly moved by the stories of our graduates thanking the executives for giving them a second chance.” She has spoken at all sixteen School at Work® graduations held at Emory Healthcare and continues to make sure that the program gets recognition from the executive team. President and CEO Jonathan S. Levin, MD, FACR says, ”Emory Healthcare’s vision is to provide the best place to work, learn, and grow by creating an inspiring work environment for our frontline workers and teams that allow them to contribute to their highest level.” With more than 200 School at Work® graduates over the past 15 years, Emory continues to push their drive for excellence stretching from every corner of its hospital system. In 2020, despite the challenges placed on them as a result of COVID-19, 28 Emory employees graduated from SAW® in April. This group worked together to create a plan that they stuck to, ensuring they finished their class on time.
Catalyst Learning Company (CLC), creator of School at Work, was founded to increase access to education for low-wage workers; adults who have been left behind and aspire to “do better”. CLC provides high quality skill and career development programs to healthcare organizations across the U.S. These programs target the frontline associates of the organization – from entry-level individuals to first-level supervisory nurses. Catalyst Learning is honored to serve 600+ acute care hospital customers, including Emory Healthcare. Many of Catalyst Learning’s customers are nationally recognized for their efforts in providing education and opportunity for healthcare frontline workers, including nine who have been recognized by CareerSTAT as Healthcare Workforce Champions. Learn the “9 Ways Hospitals can Support Frontline Healthcare Workers, and Create a Winning Culture!”
 Magnet Recognition.” About Emory Healthcare. https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/about/magnet-recognition/index.html Accessed 08 August 2019.
 Christenbury, Janet. “Emory Healthcare recognized as emerging champion for School at Work program for frontline health care employees.” Emory News Center. 19 July 2019. https://news.emory.edu/stories/2019/07/ehc_emerging_champion_school_at_work_program/index.html Accessed 08 August 2019.
 CareerSTAT Frontline Healthcare Worker Emerging Champion Emory Healthcare; Education as a Priority for the Frontline Workforce.” National Fund for Workforce Solutions. https://nationalfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/NFW19139_Natl_Fund_Emory_v5.pdf Accessed 08 August 2019.