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Creating fully realized career pathways for healthcare professionals

Van Ton-Quinlivan, the CEO of California-based Futuro Health, is on a mission: To grow the health and wealth of communities by building the largest network of allied health workers.

In a 2021 report from California Competes, California, like most other states, is facing a rapidly growing deficit in the allied health workforce, with a projected annual shortage of up to 37,000 workers. Futuro Health goes even further, estimating an annual demand of 65,000 workers in the state. And because of burn-out related to COVID-19, healthcare workers are quitting in droves, further exacerbating the already overwhelming need for these skilled workers.

Increasing upward mobility

The idea is simple: Educate and train people for skilled, entry-level positions in the healthcare field, then provide them a clear route for moving up the ladder. These jobs run the gamut from medical assistant, healthcare data analyst, and telehealth coordinator to patient care representative, registered dental assistant, and care coordinator for behavioral health populations or chronically ill populations.

To do so, Ton-Quinlivan built an entire allied health ecosystem through Futuro Health. In her new book, Workforce Rx: Agile and Inclusive Strategies for Employers, Educators and Workers in Unsettled Times, she advocates for a playbook that emphasizes not going it alone. Instead, she recommends embracing much deeper collaboration within the industry and among industry, education, government and regional communities.

For Futuro Health, that started with establishing relationships with a variety of schools and organizations that provide specialized credentials and degrees for allied health professionals. Understanding the well-established data documenting the challenges of completion — especially among first-generation, people of color, low-income and working adult learners — Futuro Health partnered with InsideTrack to provide each student with holistic coaching support right from the program’s outset.

Kai Drekmeier, Founder and Chief Development Officer for InsideTrack says, “We are honored to support the academic and non-academic needs of every student, helping them attain the credentials and degrees that will lead to successful, long-term careers in healthcare.” Finally, working with a worker-owned cooperative that provides allied healthcare professionals to hospitals and healthcare systems completed the loop.

“Equally important,” says Drekmeier, is the fact that “Ton-Quinlivan’s playbook emphasizes leadership and culture that not only accepts but also encourages risk-taking, and expects greater agility from everyone at the table — including leadership, employees and partners.”

Accomplishing a win-win-win

What makes Ton-Quinlivan such a forward thinker? According to Drekmeier, “Van has clearly lived, for a long time, at the crossroads of social justice and sustainable development, with a belief that there really is the potential for a true ‘win-win’ where employment success and economic stability are realized for workers and employers thrive due to a better skilled and more engaged workforce.”

Taking that one step further, Futuro Health has created a triple win. As Ton-Quinlivan details in her latest book, the organization does three things simultaneously, all designed to provide skilled career access that lifts up the community as a whole.

First, they’re upskilling a diverse and overlooked population that is new to healthcare, providing them with the skills and certifications they need to attain living-wage employment. Second, they’re addressing acute workforce needs in allied health fields at a time of considerable — and growing — workforce shortages. And third, they’re improving healthcare outcomes by helping to meet desperately needed staffing capacity, with a diverse workforce that is far more reflective of today’s population.

According to Ton-Quinlivan, the shortage of healthcare workers is especially acute in low-income communities and rural areas that struggle to fill job openings. “Part of the workforce development strategy,” she says, “has to be growing workers from those communities who want to live and serve there.” She also notes that while families often talk about doctors and nurses around the dinner table, they rarely talk about radiology technicians, medical assistants or care coordinators. “We have to work together to spread the word within communities and raise visibility for these jobs.”

Planning for a healthy future

In order to meet the growing demand, InsideTrack is energized to be partnering with Futuro Health, who has an ambitious goal of graduating 10,000 new licensed and/or credentialed allied healthcare workers. During their first year, they’re off to an impressive start, with 1,700 students enrolled.

The Futuro Health model provides a realistic opportunity for adult learners to get the education and training they need to work in meaningful and growing fields, with potential for further upskilling and career growth in the future. Or as Ton-Quinlivan calls it, the “in and up” pathway to opportunity.

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