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Advancing Progress and Possibilities for a Healthier Future

Building a Workforce for Tomorrow

Letter From
Tracey Schiro Senior Vice President of Risk Management & Chief Human Resources Officer
Tracey Moffatt Chief Nursing Officer & System Vice President, Quality

Q How does your commitment to workforce development support Ochsner’s efforts to improve health outcomes throughout Louisiana?

Tracey Schiro: There’s no way around it, we live in one of the least healthy states in the nation. Ochsner is determined to address that, which means we have to get ahead of the behaviors that contribute to chronic and long-term disease. Our healthcare professionals play a central role in that work — not only through their medical skill and expertise, but by speaking to patients in their own language so they better understand how to prevent, monitor and treat chronic disease. A skilled and diverse workforce is absolutely essential for delivering the kind of experience our patients deserve.

Tracey Moffatt: There is very, very little patient-facing work in any health system that does not involve nursing. Whether it’s in a clinic or in a hospital or urgent care, almost all patient encounters include their unique skillset. That makes nursing one of the most vital resources to the healthcare delivery system — and a critical one in improving health outcomes across our communities.

Tracey Schiro and Tracey Moffatt work closely together on workforce development programs that shape clinical and nonclinical opportunities at Ochsner and across our communities.

Q How has Ochsner’s workforce development
strategy evolved in recent years?

Tracey Schiro: We’ve gained tremendous momentum through multiple programs, and it all began with the launch of our MA Now medical assistant program six years ago. Since then, we’ve been very intentional in working with community colleges and other partners to better understand the projected workforce needs, where the gaps are, and how we create a comprehensive workforce development program to address them. In addition to MA Now we have added a pharmacy tech program, phlebotomy program, surgical tech program and others. In 2019 we were excited to graduate our first class in the medical assistant (MA) to licensed practical nurse (LPN) apprenticeship program, which will be important in filling the growing need for LPNs.

Tracey Moffatt: As a member of the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, one thing has become abundantly clear: our state doesn’t have enough nursing schools. Every year we turn away between 1,300 and 1,500 qualified applicants to colleges of nursing. Across the state of Louisiana, we need to be part of the solution to ensure an adequate supply of nurses for our state. One barrier is not having enough faculty — the experienced nurse educators who bring eight or 10 students into the clinical setting each semester. We are pleased to have partnered with Chamberlain University College of Nursing to open a training program on our West Campus. We also partner with Delgado Community College to share experienced nursing staff to support clinical rotations — exposing and training them around the Ochsner nursing practice principles that make us a Magnet-recognized organization. It’s one of the ways that we can be part of the solution.

Q What are the next steps in your
workforce development journey?

Tracey Schiro: We’re excited to expand the MA to LPN apprenticeship program into two regions for the 2020 class year, and work is underway to launch an LPN to RN program to help address the need for more registered nurses in our pipeline. We’re also launching an Ochsner Scholars Program that will fully pay tuition for employees who enroll in programs to advance in their healthcare careers, as well as a virtual career center, where employees can sign up with a career coach to help them think about what might be next for them. 

We’ve gained tremendous momentum through multiple programs, and it all began with the launch of our MA Now medical assistant program six years ago.

— Tracey Schiro

Up Close with Jyra Smith Twice a Pioneer — to Put Her Career Back on Track

When Jyra Smith first entered college, she had a clear plan — enroll in Dillard University’s School of Nursing, earn a nursing degree and launch a career in healthcare. But life soon intervened in the form of an unplanned pregnancy. She soon found it challenging to care for her young daughter and pursue her career dreams. Recalls Jyra, “I just got off track, like many people do. I continued to take a few classes, but it was hard to make progress.”

But, through the years, Jyra’s career dream never waned. Her older sister, an RN, suggested she take the first step by becoming a nurse’s assistant. In 2012 Jyra began in that role at Ochsner Medical Center — West Bank Campus and she’s never looked back. Today, after successful completion of two of Ochsner’s signature workforce development programs, MA Now and the LPN Apprenticeship Program, she’s employed as an LPN at Ochsner Baptist’s Tchoupitoulas location, supporting physicians and treating podiatry patients while utilizing her advanced skills in wound care.

Jyra, a New Orleans native, was in the inaugural class of each training program. She says being able to enroll in both tuition-free was huge — “a plus on top of a plus.” She’s also embraced the opportunity to provide feedback to leaders to help improve the programs for future enrollees. There’s been discussion of creating an Ochsner LPN to RN program and, when that initiative launches, count her in. “RN — for me, that’s still the ultimate goal.”

According to Jyra, throughout her Ochsner journey, “All of my managers and coworkers have always been encouraging and wanted me to progress. It just seems like everybody’s trying to get to the next level and make the system better. It makes it a really nice place to work.”

Jyra Smith is a graduate of two of Ochsner’s workforce development programs: MA Now and the LPN Apprenticeship Program. She’s now employed at Ochsner Baptist.