Frontline workers fill about half of all health care jobs and deliver most of the nation's direct care and health services. Through Jobs to Careers, employers are realizing the potential of this workforce to deliver more and better care, fill critical vacancies in professional positions, and meet the needs of today and tomorrow.
A capable and diverse health care workforce is essential to providing for the health needs of all Americans. Yet one group that is critical to patient care and satisfaction is often underrepresented in research and in outreach initiatives within the health care system: the nation’s six million frontline health care workers.
Frontline health care employees have critical responsibilities in delivering the nation’s direct care and health services. They include: home health aides caring for elders; medical assistants taking vital signs and collecting patient data; lab technicians ensuring that tests run properly; substance abuse workers helping groups of recovering addicts. These workers practice in acute care hospitals, long-term care institutions, behavioral and community health clinics, and public and community health organizations. They provide their patients and clients with preventive and early intervention services, chronic illness management strategies, and long-term and post-hospitalization rehabilitative care.
Yet even as their numbers increase, few frontline employees earn enough to support their families. By and large, frontline workers lack the formal training that leads to credentials and higher-skilled jobs in health care. With few opportunities to advance in health care, both job retention and morale are low. Continuity of care and health services suffer as a result.
Frontline workers typically:
The costs to employers are high as well. High turnover disrupts continuity of care, and it is expensive to train replacement employees, even at the entry level.
If health care employers are to be competitive, their business models must address high turnover rates and the lack of advancement opportunities among frontline workers. In other words, improving health care requires finding ways to efficiently and effectively upgrade the skills and advancement opportunities of frontline workers.