November 14, 2022

Regional growth spotlights ‘Join Us,’ workforce campaigns: Leadership Assembly takeaways

Sustaining the Medical Center’s era of unparalleled growth throughout the region will be bolstered by new recruitment, retention, and career development opportunities.

The spirit and strength of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s (VUMC) workforce is a vital component of the mission to provide personalized care and make groundbreaking research discoveries, presenters said during streaming of the November 2022 Leadership Assembly.

Sustaining the Medical Center’s era of unparalleled growth throughout the region will be bolstered by new recruitment, retention, and career development opportunities, leaders said. In just over a decade, VUMC has doubled its clinical footprint, from surgeries to inpatient facilities. Outpatient visits have tripled to over 3 million annually; VUMC emerged as a national destination for patients to find cures and treatments linked to information in their DNA.

VUMC is the region’s largest training center for health care workers, from allied health professionals to nurses and physicians in advanced training in over 200 specialties. At any given time, there are over 2,000 people training at the main campus’ facilities.

Dr. Jeff Balser speaks at the November 2022 Leadership Assembly
Photos by: Susan Urmy

“We are the most capable resource in the region — and in many cases, the only option in Middle Tennessee to get this level of care. These accomplishments give us much to be proud of and reflect the energy and commitment of every person working at VUMC. Having grown public trust along the way, with these accomplishments you have established Vanderbilt Health as an indispensable resource,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The Medical Center will build on its staff-focused initiatives that were the bedrock of the early phases of the pandemic response.

“Our financial strength has enabled us to do many things— invest in training, in science and technology that improves lives. And importantly, we’ve been able invest in you. This was never more apparent than during the early phases of the pandemic,” said Balser.

Medical Center leaders are striving to provide more flexible scheduling, build a more diverse and inclusive community, and offer more opportunities for career development, which are all key to a strong, sustainable, and happier workforce, said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer.


“Join Us”

VUMC’s growth around the region and on its main campus carries with it the imperative of bringing more people on board. However, Balser said, although staffing shortages are improving for VUMC, the Medical Center is experiencing the same challenges that face hospitals across the country.

“It’s no secret that these shortages are still impacting us. And here’s the bottom line – to open new facilities, beds that are desperately needed for our community, we need to hire a vast number of people. We are already the largest employer in Middle Tennessee, and now I’m excited to see VUMC on the path to being the region’s employer of choice. Working together, we can do this, but it will take our energy and focus,” said Balser.

Early data from the Medical Center’s recent “Join Us” hiring campaign indicates that the buzz about hiring is growing.

“The growth of our sites and the need for more colleagues to join us mean that each of us needs to recommit ourselves to growing an atmosphere that attracts and engages our people, with an intentional focus on diversity and inclusion, new options for career development, and where possible, greater flexibility. Our spirit and our purpose is why we work here, and why this is the place we want our friends and family to work. I’m deeply proud to work at Vanderbilt, and I’m proud to work with you,” said Balser.

Dr. Wright Pinson speaks at the November 2022 Leadership Assembly.

Retain and Train

More staff are choosing to stay at VUMC than during last year, a strong development for Medical Center culture after significant hiring and vacancies early in the pandemic. Respiratory care, along with other clinical support roles and food services areas have greater continuity than last year. It’s not just finding the right people, but it is also keeping them,” said Pinson.

Retention is central to patient care and experience so Medical Center leaders are evaluating and launching a variety of initiatives to create more mobility within the enterprise and across its growing regional footprint.

“Building our own pipeline for employees is not a new concept at Vanderbilt, but one where we have recently placed special emphasis. We want to build an environment where our team members can more easily advance inside VUMC. A recent example of this is an Allied Health Education Initiative,” said Pinson.

Medical Center leaders are planning a 3.25% salary increase for all employees beginning Jan. 1.

Nurse Staffing, Scholars

Among the growing career development and nurse-support options, including the loan repayment program, is a new program called the “VUMC Staffing Collaborative” that will support nurse staffing needs as a systemwide resource.

Nurses in the Collaborative will be able to work for multiple Vanderbilt Health entities in non-traditional scheduling structures, allowing for flexible and alternative nursing employment, said Pinson. Hiring starts soon; details will be forthcoming.

“This will allow us to reduce our dependency on external agency labor and provides opportunities for our highly skilled nurses to work at Vanderbilt in a way that meets their lifestyle needs,” said Pinson.

The “VUMC Nurse Scholars Program,” secured its external partnerships the Cumberland School of Nursing and the Vanderbilt School of Nursing. The Scholars program will provide scholarships for students accepted into the nursing programs, in return for VUMC employment after they graduate.

Nursing and allied health leaders are also reaching out and working with high school students who are interested in nursing and other health care careers.

“These students will have an opportunity to experience the culture of VUMC while in school and transition into work within the health system after their graduation,” said Pinson.

Think Differently

Leaders from across the Medical Center are emphasizing a variety of initiatives and scouting for new ideas to improve clinical care and boost team efficiency with a focus on using resources more wisely. Inflation is putting pressure on hospitals across the country, VUMC among them. So finding creative, scalable ways to shift spending is a priority — and an opportunity to change how teams work.

“Along with every other health system across the country, it is imperative that we continue to seek innovative ways to reduce our expenses. We are going to need everyone to reflect on these questions. We must start thinking of creative and innovative solutions to cost reduction,” said Pinson.