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Grow Your Own: Workforce development program

It may not surprise you that recruiting a qualified workforce in Forks, WA is challenging. What is surprising is the grassroots innovation that continues in the most rural reaches of the Olympic region. “There’s not a lot of good paying jobs in Forks for those without education,” says Forks Community Hospital CEO Heidi Anderson, “we want to make our community healthier, and we are doing that small bits at a time.”

Across Washington state, and specifically the Olympic region, health-serving workforce shortages pose critical barriers to providing quality and timely services for communities. Forks Community Hospital combats this challenge with its innovative Grow Your Own program, an employee centered and community-driven approach to building workforce capacity.

The idea started in 2001 to address workforce challenges and was focused on imaging technicians. With continuing examples of success, the program continues to grow today.

There are three initiatives under Forks’ Grow Your Own Program:

  • the medical assistant apprenticeship which has graduated 1 individual, with 3 more currently enrolled and 3 more internal candidates to begin soon,

  • the emergency medical technician (EMT) which just graduated an additional 9 EMTs,

  • and certified nursing assistant course.

Additionally, Forks Community Hospital offers employee education programs for those employed over 1 year to cover higher education related costs such as books and tuition reimbursement. They also offer opportunities for paid work experience while employees pursue obtaining necessary clinical hours. And, they welcome opportunities to host students and residents and show them what rural medicine is all about, “when we get the nursing students we love them. It does slow down the routine but in the end someone might fall in love with the rural area and stay” says Heidi Anderson.