El Rio Community Health Center (Tucson, Arizona).

PROJECT NAME: Entry Level Workforce development

Project Overview:

El Rio Community Health Center’s project includes all entry level administrative, clinical and allied health workers. Throughout the various locations of our organizations, El Rio seeks to recruit, train, and retain medical office specialists, medical assistants, health information management staff and community health advisors, eligibility staff, patient communications support, and pharmacy techs. These staff provide front office/billing functions, support for patient care and the licensed clinical team, medical records/entry HIT support for the patient care team, health education, case management, and advocacy. El Rio intends to recruit a culturally appropriate entry level workforce reflective of our organizational mission and vision. In addition, the Center will build internal educational opportunities, new experiences and goals with community partners to train and develop as well as retain our excellent workforce. El Rio’s vision is to build a world-class learning organization reflective of the education and training we provide for our workforce and offer this Center of Excellence as a Training Institute for other agencies in Tucson and southern Arizona with similar workforce needs.

Project Objectives:

  • Implement Community Outreach Campaign to establish El Rio image as one of Tucson’s premier places of employment.
  • Develop a Training and Development Program for new and existing entry level employees to successfully prepare them for the future health care delivery model in Community Health Centers.
  • Create and operationalize internal career ladders for existing El Rio entry level employees.
  • Design and secure relationships for formal ongoing education for entry level employees with community academic organizations.
  • Create an affiliation relationship with Grand Canyon University Tucson Nursing Program to meet the Service Learning Sr. Nursing student assignments in Community Health Nursing and optimize experiences for El Rio entry-level employees.

Key Grant Activities:

To increase interest in employment opportunities at the health center, and bolster applications for entry-level positions, El Rio:

  • Provided 49 tours of El Rio facilities to potential employees, medical students and residents, public health interns, and representatives of local community based organizations.
  • El Rio’s HR department increased the quality and frequency of the communications and recruitment efforts through partnerships with local organizations and universities.
  • Eight El Rio sites held “Skills Fairs” for entry-level employees.

In partnership with Pima Community College, El Rio’s own faculty developed a training program for new and existing entry level employees.  The process helped El Rio staff identify crucial areas for employee improvement such as writing skills, develop on-going educational opportunities, and offer general education courses focused on writing and college-level math and advanced health-related courses.

El Rio staff evaluated all entry-level job descriptions and the organizational structure.  The process helped identify growth and career path opportunities for entry-level staff.

Other notable accomplishments included formalizing an agreement with Pima Community College and the development of  an affiliation with the Grand Canyon University Tucson Nursing Program for service learning opportunities for nursing students and entry-level employees.

Project outcomes:

  • El Rio saw an increase of more than 25% in entry-level staff employment applications.
  • An initial cohort of 22 employees enrolled in the skills training course.
    • Although eight students withdrew, 13 of 14 remaining students passed the course.
  • The center created an internal career ladder for existing entry-level employees which helped identify growth and career path opportunities for entry-level staff.

About the Grantee: 

El Rio Community Health Center is the largest provider of medical and dental services to uninsured and Medicaid populations in Pima County, Arizona. With 17 sites in Tucson, El Rio served the medical and dental needs of more than 76,000 patients in 2012. El Rio currently employs over 800 people with an annual budget of $90 million dollars. A national model of health care excellence, El Rio’s mission is to: “Improve the health of our community through comprehensive, accessible, affordable, quality and compassionate care.” El Rio has been accredited and recognized by the Joint Commission and National Committee of Quality Assurance. www.elrio.org.