November 30, 2007

Innovative School at Work program helps advance careers in health care

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School at Work coach Wanda Alexander, second from left, with students, from left, Sonya Simmons, Shalanda Young, Channel Baugh and Tiffany Lynn. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Innovative School at Work program helps advance careers in health care

With School at Work, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is exploring a new way of helping entry-level hourly employees advance their careers in health care.

Six employees from Food Service make up the program's pilot group. Their two-semester program began in May and concludes in February. The first semester was devoted to math skills and oral and written communication; the second semester covers medical terminology, basic anatomy and physiology, and an introduction to careers in radiation technology, surgical technology and medical records coding.

Class meetings alternate between video presentations and online lessons. Two-hour classes meet once a week and students are assigned approximately two hours of homework a week.

There's a qualifying written test to enter the program. All materials and instruction are free. All classes are scheduled during the work shift and participants collect their regular level of salary for time spent in class.

School at Work was begun by Larry Goldberg, CEO of Vanderbilt University Hospital, and Kevin Myatt, formerly Vanderbilt's chief human resource officer.

“Kevin and Larry launched the pilot to expand opportunities for our staff and provide skills and motivation to help participants continue their education and seek advancement,” said the administrator in charge of the program, Cynthia Facemire, director for Programs in Allied Health.

“Vanderbilt has always provided continuing education and career development opportunities for professional staff, and this is a quite substantial way of extending that type of opportunity to hourly entry-level staff. I'll be very pleased if it turns out that we're able to make this program permanent and expand the enrollment to more areas of the Medical Center,” Facemire said.

A vendor, Catalyst Learning (, provides most of the instruction.

Facemire recruited two of her managers as on-site coaches for the pilot group of students — Wanda Alexander, manager of patient services, Food Service, and Sharon Ream, assistant director for Programs in Allied Health.

Students in the pilot group are Chanell Baugh, Tiffany Lynn, Sonya Simmons, Robert Heskett, Beth Holbert and Shalanda Young.