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RWJBarnabas Health receives grant to fund career development for its frontline workers

The grant will advance careers in an industry short on labor.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

RWJBarnabas Health has received an  $800,000 federal grant through the state of New Jersey to use for career pipeline development for its frontline healthcare employees.

Frontline workers provide routine and essential services and represent about  50 percent of the healthcare workforce. The grant will fund apprenticeship, tuition reimbursement and other programs to advance their careers and to ease provider staffing shortages for certified and registered nurses, lab technicians and other professional roles.

Eighty apprentice openings include programs for 30 paramedics, 25 lab technologists and 25 patient care technicians.

Emergency medical technicians can enter a paramedic program or be put on the track to becoming an RN. Phlebotomists can become certified lab technicians and patient care technicians can become certified nursing assistants. 

Any employee can ask to become trained for a particular role, including that of a physician, according to Lourdes Valdes, director of Workforce Development and Grants at RWJBarnabas Health.

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development selected the New York City area health system to receive the funds through the competitive, Growing Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors (GAINS) grant program.


Staffing shortages remain critical in the healthcare industry.

"The entire nation has a shortage of RNs, there's always a need for nurses," Valdes said. "There is a huge need for patient care technicians and it's a pathway to the RN program or to become an ultrasound technician."

RWJBarnabas Health is the only hospital network in the state to receive the funding, according to Valdes. Hospitals need to show real data behind the request and to provide a statement of need.


The U.S. Department of Labor is encouraging apprentice models like these by rolling out the grant funding in various states for industries such as healthcare, construction and technology that are short on qualified workers.

The New Jersey Department of Labor has industry partnerships and CEOs to lead the effort for workforce development, Valdes said.

"In a tight job market, in healthcare it's not going away," she said. "We need to create and be creative in the pipelines and be ahead of the game."

Valdes said what's next is an effort to get a group of hospitals together to create further opportunities and training.

While this is the first time the GAINS grant has been released, in recent years, the system's focus on career advancement has driven to the creation of RWJBarnabas Health's Career Ladders program, which provides professional certification programs and soft skills training opportunities for frontline employees across the system.

"For the GAINS grant, everything we do is to create career ladders," Valdes said. "It's to connect employees to what they want to do."

RWJBarnabas Health is a large academic health care system in New Jersey that covers nine counties and has 11 acute care hospitals, three acute care children's hospitals and a pediatric rehabilitation hospital. With more than 33,000 employees, it is among the state's largest private employers.

It recently announced a partnership with Rutgers University to create a large academic healthcare system.  


"With this grant, we are able to greatly strengthen our efforts in engaging with our employee community and further promote their economic stability and career development, which supports their long-term sustainability," said Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health. 

Valdes said, "Not only will the GAINS grant support career advancement from within our community, it also reinforces our commitment to creating an institution-wide culture of promotion, equity, and opportunity across our network."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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