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STLCC, BJC Form Ideal Business-Education Partnership

December 01, 2011

Roxie Rikard and Pauline Wiggins  

BJC employees Roxie Rikard, left, and Pauline Wiggins are taking advantage of a program with
St. Louis Community College through which BJC employees receive education and training to meet prerequisites to enroll in allied health programs offered at the Forest Park campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, employment opportunities in the healthcare industry are expected to increase dramatically now and in the near future, and critical shortages currently exist in many healthcare-related occupations. Addressing the shortage requires meaningful strategic alliances among healthcare employers and colleges to ensure that emerging, transitional and current workers are prepared for careers in a complex, rapidly-changing field.

An ideal business-education partnership between the St. Louis region’s largest employer and a higher education provider now is under way. Employees at BJC HealthCare are taking advantage of a company tuition reimbursement benefit to get a jumpstart on training for jobs in these skilled areas through a partnership program with St. Louis Community College, whereby BJC employees can receive education and training to meet prerequisites for enrollment in allied health programs offered at the college’s Forest Park campus.

STLCC has partnered with several healthcare institutions locally to provide accelerated training programs for their employees that serve as pathways to various STLCC allied health programs.

Through this agreement with BJC, STLCC offers courses for up to 24 BJC employees in the areas of biology, chemistry, general microbiology, and anatomy and physiology, totaling 21 credit hours. Students who successfully complete these courses will be prepared and eligible to enroll in one of several allied health programs at STLCC-Forest Park. Forest Park is Missouri's leading provider of health technology training, offering 13 medical programs ranging from funeral services and diagnostic medical sonography to dental hygiene, nursing, respiratory therapy and health information technology.

A block of classes are taught at the BJC Center for LifeLong Learning; the lab sessions associated with the classes are conducted at STLCC-Forest Park.

Workforce Responsiveness

Patricia McEwen, dean of allied health and natural sciences at Forest Park, said the partnership aligns with the college’s strategic direction to improve responsiveness to workforce needs.

“It is a privilege to work with BJC in achieving this goal of providing allied health professionals to this ever demanding work force,” she said. “STLCC and BJC share the same goals of student success, and ultimately, employment in St. Louis and the surrounding area. This partnership certainly can be viewed as a win-win for both STLCC and BJC.”

Gary Stocker, senior program manager at the CLL, said employers appreciate flexibility in developing pathways that provide the most benefit to their employees.

“As our employees complete their general education requirements, BJC provides them with the option of either a clinical or non-clinical track toward a degree of their choice,” Stocker said. “The academic partnership with St. Louis Community College provides a clinical pathway that many of our employees choose.  The employees are able to take the lecture classes at the BJC Learning Institute, and lab classes on the Forest Park campus. Our employees have reported great value in studying the course materials with their BJC colleagues.  As an organization, we also place value in this cohort model of learning.”

In 2012, Stocker said BJC employees will begin their clinical rotations for their allied health degrees through one of the 13 BJC HealthCare hospital and service organizations.

Meeting Students' Needs

Roxie Rikard, supervisor of patient access at Missouri Baptist Hospital in Sullivan, Mo., is pursuing a nursing degree at Forest Park through this program.

“I think the program is a wonderful opportunity for anybody who works full time, has a family and wants to continue their education,” Rikard said. “I would be unable to attend college without this type of program. I was unable to pursue any degree when I was younger due to personal circumstances. I have never enjoyed science before – and I want to be a nurse -- but the instructors have made the classes very enjoyable and I only want to learn more. I cannot thank BJC and St. Louis Community College enough for this opportunity.”

Pauline Wiggins, office coordinator for the Rehabilitation department at Barnes-Jewish Extended Care, also gave the program high marks. Wiggins has an LPN degree, but has not practiced for several years. To achiever her goal of achieving a BSN, she needed to retake all of her science classes. This cohort allowed her to retake these courses in two years and still work full time. When she completes her clinical rotation, she will have her RN degree. Wiggins then will once again turn to the Center for Lifelong Learning to help her earn her BSN, specializing in geriatrics.

“The instructors have been outstanding. They work very hard with us to make sure that we understand course content, and they actively serve as mentors to all of us,” Wiggins said. “You can't ask for a better team. Education is the key to success.  The tuition reimbursement opportunity that BJC offers its employees is wonderful, and more employees should take advantage of it.”

Future Options for BJC Employees

JoAnn Shaw, BJC’s vice president and chief learning officer, said that BJC is exploring other partnership opportunities with STLCC, including medical coding, that will provide more options for BJC employees.

“We value our relationship with St. Louis Community College and will continue to look to the college for learning opportunities in degree and certificate programs that will benefit our patients, BJC employees, our organization and our community,” Shaw said. “One example of further collaboration is our new medical coding program we are developing with the college. We have been pleased with the responsiveness of St. Louis Community College and the quality of the instructors assigned to our students. The success with our allied health partnership through the college has given us the opportunity to expand our relationship in this vital area of our business.”

Rod Nunn, the college’s vice chancellor for workforce and community development, notes that ideal business-education partnerships require a healthy dose of shared risk on multiple fronts.

“We are committed to tailoring programs to accommodate working adults and providing access to in-demand lab space and quality instruction,” he said. “BJC is committed to funding the cohort instructional model and finding in-demand, clinical slots. The future seems much brighter in terms of addressing healthcare workforce shortages under this partnership. We are even beginning to discuss how public policy impacts our work.”