Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
“What’s so great about working at Highland?” was the question I posed to one of our long time employees the other day. Gerald Bragg LPN has been on staff at Highland Hospital for the last 14 years, and I wanted to know, after his career path took him through medical surgical nursing, long term care, and home care, what drew him to Highland, and more importantly, what makes him stay here. Gerald’s answer was quick—“the people”. Gerald clarified that by “the people” he means the staff who he works with as well as the patients he gets to care for each day. He went on to say that he loves to teach new staff, and welcomes the opportunity to guide them in ways in which they can be successful here at Highland Hospital, but also in ways they can assure that our patients get the care that they need. Gerald has taken advantage of opportunities at Highland to expand his skill set, including becoming an instructor for one of our required courses for assuring safe handling of patients—another chance for him to assure quality care for our patients.
I’m so interested in why people stay at Highland Hospital and our other companies for a lot of reasons. One of the most pressing reasons I’ve talked about before, and that is that our staff is one of our most important resources. But also, since I am always looking ahead, I know that we are not unlike other health care organizations in that we have an aging population in our workforce. With looming retirements in our workforce (over 35% of our staff are baby boomers or older!), we need to constantly be thinking about how we can prevent the loss of institutional and clinical knowledge that is so important to our organization. We want our people to stay with us, and to create a career path with our organization. We want to avoid what has happened in businesses across the world—the loss of knowledge with the retirement of the workforce.
A few years ago, I watched a “60 Minutes” interview with some engineers who had worked in the space program in the US moon landing program. Those men, in their 50’s and 60’s had lost their jobs with the closing of the space program. These were men who had grown up with the space program, many with 25-35 year careers at NASA. Today very few are left. The conclusion was that if NASA wanted to send a man to the moon or Mars today, it couldn’t do it. All the knowledge and experience is gone. NASA would literally have to start from scratch.
Now, I know we’re not NASA at the Highland Companies, and we’re not trying to get to the moon. But our work is equally as important, because we are helping to care for a generation of patients who need our care more than ever before. We need to entrust that care to staff that are well trained, who possess specialized knowledge, and who feel like they are invested in us because we are invested in them. Gerald and I talked this week about his future—and we talked about how we can help him get there at Highland—through support for tuition reimbursement to meet his dream of becoming a registered nurse, to helping him realize a goal of moving into a management role in his future by providing him management training.
Gerald’s not a baby boomer, he’s a proud Generation X’er, but we don’t want to lose his institutional and clinical knowledge either—we want to invest in him and others in our organization so that Highland is the employer of choice for employees who want to make a difference in the lives of patients in need. It’s the only way our organization will continue to thrive and survive.
This is the first in a series of blogs which will highlight an employee of one of our Highland Charleston companies. Stay tuned for more!