Category Archives: Jobs & Employment

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Swedish Visiting Nurse Services to close


Swedish Visiting Nurse Services (SVNS) will cease operating effective April 27, 2012, Swedish Medical Center announced Thursday.

SVNS provides in-home medical services, such as in-home nursing, physical and occupational therapy, infusion therapy, nutritional therapy, and hospice care.

SVNS currently serves about 300 home-health patients, about 125 hospice patients and 80 home-infusion patients, the medical center said.

Swedish said that despite turnaround efforts launched last June, the service is projected to lose $12 million in this year, which would put its total loss since 2009 at $51 million.

Swedish blamed losses on the high cost of wages, benefits and overtime and low reimbursement from commercial payers as well as “productivity issues.”

SVNS will stop accepting new patients effective immediately and will work to discharge or transfer home-care patients within the next 30 days and hospice patients within the next 60 days, Swedish said.

Swedish said it would make SVNS patients aware of other care options in the community and would work to place them with the agency of their choice.

Swedish said it would also work to help the 220 SVNS employees find new jobs, either by redeploying them elsewhere in the Swedish system, which includes five hospitals, two ambulatory care centers and more than 100 clinics. or by assisting them in connecting them with opportunities elsewhere in the community.

As part of that effort, Swedish will soon host a job fair and invite all other home-health and hospice agencies, so they can promote their current job openings to SVNS employees, Swedish said.

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Nurse holding a stethoscope

Health care hiring remains strong


The U.S. health care sector added more than 23,000 jobs last month, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with hospitals hiring about 10,000 new employees.

All told, the U.S. health care sector saw consistent growth last year despite the nation’s troubled economic picture adding a total of 315,000 jobs in 2010.

Overall, the U.S. jobs picture brightened last month with a drop in the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent, down from 9.1 percent in August.

Unemployment rates, however, continue to remain high among blacks, Hispanics,and the young:

Unemployment rates among major worker groups in December:

  • Adult men – 8 percent
  • Adult women – 7.9 percent
  • Teenagers – 23.1 percent

Unemployment rates in major ethnic groups:

  • Whites – 7.5 percent
  • Blacks – 15.8 percent
  • Hispanices – 11.00 percent
  • Asians – 6.8 percent
Petri Dish

State’s life sciences sector grows despite recession


Despite a recession, the number of jobs in Washington state’s life sciences sector rose 9 percent from 2007 through the first quarter of this year, according to a report released at the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Associations (WBBA) 2011 Governor’s Life Sciences Annual.

WBBA President Chris Rivera said the upbeat report on state’s life sciences industry was “conservative” — but added there were challenges that threatened the sector’s growth, including burdensome regulation and increased competition from competitors both here in the U.S. and abroad.

The report “Trends in Washing’s Life Sciences Industry 2007–2011”, which was prepared for WBBA by the Washington Research Council, found that the life sciences was now the fifth largest employment sector in the state, after transportation and equipment manufacturing, agriculture, software, and food and beverage manufacturing.

The sector, which does not include hospitals and other health services, employs 33,519 individuals directly, whose employment, in turn, supports as many as 57,000 other jobs indirectly for a total of nearly 91,000 overall, the report said.

In general, life science jobs are well paid, with an annual average wage of $77,490, compared to the state’s average private sector wage of $48,519 a year.

Overall, the sector adds $10.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product of $340.5 billion in 2010.

Official portrait Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire

Chris Gregoire

In her address to the conference, Gov. Christine Gregoire said collaboration has been the key to the success of the state’s life science sector.

“Our growing life sciences sector is built on three strong pillars: our educational institutions, our private businesses, and our nonprofit organizations,” she said, which “unlike many around the world are all working together.”

Gregoire cited a number of promising programs designed to support the sector, in particular small start ups, but warned that cuts to education due to the budget crisis threatened the sector.

“We cannot afford to continue to compromise our education system in this state and yet expect that we be on the cutting edge of the knowledge economy,” she said.

Speaker Highlight: Eli Lilly CEO John Leichleiter

Eli Lilly CEO John Leichleiter told the conference that while the U.S. Life sciences and biopharmaceutical sector was the “envy of the world” the sector is “facing today nothing short of a innovation crisis.”

Leichleiter blamed the high cost of research and development, burdensome regulation at home, and increased competition abroad, particularly from China and India.

Leichleiter noted that it now takes $1.3 billion to develop a new drug. At the same time, due to expiration of patents for a large number of top-selling drugs, the industry faces the loss of $150 billion in annual revenue. This means there will be less to invest in “next generation of medicines,” Leichleiter said.

These and other pressures are forcing a “wave of defensive consolidation” among “arge cap pharmaceutical companies, resulting in a “dwindling number of entities capable of taking a discovery to a medicine.”

At the same time,  China and India are “producing more scientists and engineers than we are and are intensely focussesing on developing their innovation capacity,” Leichleiter said.

Leichleiter proposed five policy remedies:

  1. Improve science and math literacty by improving K througn 12 education.
  2. Immigration reform that “allows and encourages top scientists to choose to work in the U.S.”
  3. Strong and sustained federal support for research: Medical research is a long process, he noted, “the funding must be consistent, predictable and sustained” in order to attract researchers and keep them engaged.
  4. Tax reform: Lowering corporate tax rates to the 20 to 25 percent range, more in line with the rates seen in competitor nations.
  5. Regulatory reform: Make drug approval quicker and more predictable and that better balances risks against potential benefits. “The pressure on regulators is to err on the side of avoiding risks, when some patients might accept those risks for the treatments potential benefit,” he said.

University of Washington President Michael Young echoed Gregoire’s and Leichleiter’sconcern about the effect state and federal budget cuts may have to the education system.

Young argued that there were three elements needed for a successful regional high-tech sector: an “innovative, imaginative business community that is willing to take risks”, a university that included “economic development in its mission,” and a supply of well-trained, “entrepreneurial students.”

That third leg was under threat due to budget cuts to public education, he warned.

WBBA also announced 2011 winners of their Innovation Award.

Seattle Genetics was recognized for its work on Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin), approved for the treatment of patients with relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma, and for the treatment of patients with relapsed systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Amgen was recognized for the FDA approval of Prolia (denosumab) for the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis at high risk for fractures, as a treatment to increase bone mass in women at high risk for fracture receiving adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer, and as a treatment to increase bone mass in men at high risk for fracture receiving androgen deprivation therapy for non-metastatic prostate cancer.

“Success in today’s economy is most directly tied to a region’s ability to grow, retain and attract human capital,” Young said.

Young argued that reason why the U.S. has been able to thrive as as the world economy have evolved from an economy based on first, agriculture, then industry, then services and now knowledge, was that it had an economic and regulatory environment that allowed businesses to adapt, a cutting-edge research infrastructure, and the “mechanisms for the best and the brightest to rise to the top,”

“The mechanisms that has allowed the best and the brightest to rise to the top have been the universities,” Young said, particularly the public universities, which educate the vast majority of America’s young.

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New hires and promotions at Group Health


Sara Kasper named executive director of Self-Funded Products and Services

Sara Kasper has been named executive director of Self-Funded Products and Services for Group Health Cooperative.

Kasper works with division leadership to determine the requirements and specifications for product design, provider networks, contract arrangements, medical management, and utilization management to create self-funded plan offerings.

She also works with senior leaders across the enterprise to deploy, grow, and sustain profitable enrollment in self-funded products.

Prior to joining Group Health, Kasper oversaw the strategic direction of all self-funding business process solutions at First Choice Health—from the business systems and processes to customer acquisition and retention.

She has also directed Managed Care Services at PacMed Clinics and served as practice management consultant at California Pacific Medical Organization.

Kasper has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Washington State University, and completed the Executive Development Program at the University of Washington.

Laura Sandstrom named vice president of Group Health Options, Inc.

Laura Sandstrom has been named vice president of Group Health Options, Inc., the choice plan subsidiary of Group Health Cooperative. She manages performance of Options and Alliant lines of business, and is also part of the Health Plan Division Leadership Team.

Options is a wholly owned subsidiary of Group Health Cooperative. It offers a variety of health plans in Washington that provide choice and flexibility to meet the needs of large and small employers, and in Idaho for large employers.

These range from a defined physician-network plan to point-of-service plans in which members can get care from outside the network for higher out-of-pocket costs.

Before joining Group Health, she was a senior partner at Mercer, and the account executive managing health and benefit consulting services on behalf of The Boeing Company.

Sandstrom has a management certificate from Portland State University, and is a frequent speaker on reengineering and outsourcing administration.

Barbara Trehearne named vice president of clinical excellence, quality, and nursing practice

Barbara Trehearne, PhD, RN has been named vice president of Clinical Excellence, Quality, and Nursing Practice for Group Health Cooperative.

She is responsible for supporting clinical excellence and quality throughout the care delivery system, providing leadership for the development and support of nursing professionals at Group Health, and for Infection Control and Employee Health.

Dr. Trehearne has worked for Group Health for more than 30 years in roles that include nursing education, staff development, and nursing administration.

She is also an associate dean of clinical practice at the University of Washington School of Nursing.

She is a graduate of Riverside White Cross School of Nursing, holds bachelor’s of science and master’s of science degrees from Ohio State University, and completed her PhD from the Union Institute in Ohio in 2001.

Dr. Trehearne is currently chair of the Washington Center for Nursing’s board of directors, a fellow in the Western Academy of Nursing and the Center for Nursing Leadership, and a member of numerous nursing associations.

Honors she’s received include the Distinguished Career award from the Northwest Organization of Nursing Executives, and the Mountain West Region Nursing Excellence Award for Advancing and Leading the Profession.

Cindy Johnson named executive vice president of Human Resources

Cindy Johnson has been named executive vice president of Human Resources for Group Health Cooperative.

Cindy is responsible for developing key human resources initiatives that support and link with the strategic plan and vision of the organization.

Prior to joining Group Health in 2006 as vice president of Human Resources, Johnson was the vice president of Human Resources for Stanford University Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. She has held varying leadership positions at Evergreen Healthcare in Kirkland, WA, and at the University of Washington.

Johnson holds Strategic Human Resource Management certification from Harvard Business School Executive Education and is a fellow with the College of Healthcare Executives. She received her bachelor’s in education from Western Washington University.

Robert Reid named associate medical director of health services research & knowledge translation

Robert Reid, MD, PhD, has been named associate medical director of Health Services Research & Knowledge Translation for Group Health Cooperative.

He is also associate investigator at Group Health Research Institute (GHRI), and a preventive medicine physician.

Dr. Reid’s research interests include primary care organization, financing and design, and the translation of health services research into day-to-day clinical practice and management.

At the Institute, he’s responsible for working with Group Health leaders to identify strategic knowledge gaps and research opportunities, promoting a culture of rapid learning, and bringing leading edge science into the organization.

He also advises on the design, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of health services and systems innovations at Group Health.

Dr. Reid has a PhD in health policy and management and a master’s of public health in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an MD from theUniversity of Alberta.

He is a member of the American College of Medical Quality, and a fellow at the American College of Preventive Medicine

Nursing aides practice helping a patient out of a chair.

As America ages demand for home health aides soars


Francess Sillah helps to transfer Tanya Pittman out of an imaginary wheel chair while role playing during a group interview at Health Management Inc. Venus Ray, the agency's executive director, looks on and assesses their skills to be a home health aide. (Photo by Jessica Marcy)

Senior Boom Creates A Demand For Home Health Workers

By Jessica Marcy
KHN Staff Writer

This story was produced in collaboration with wapo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At her home health care agency here, Venus Ray quizzes 65 job applicants assembled before her: Can they cook? Do they know the right way to wash their hands? Can they safely transfer patients into wheelchairs? If they give wrong answers, speak English poorly or — God forbid — forget to turn off their cell phones, she asks them to leave.

By the end of the session, Ray has dismissed 42 of the applicants, almost two-thirds, even though she’s in dire need of employees.

Ray is executive director of Health Management Inc., which employs about 410 people, including 395 home health aides. With business booming, she is constantly looking to hire more, and she holds group interviews once or twice a month.

“There’s a huge demand, and it’s only going to get larger as the years go by,” Ray said. With the nation’s aging population, she added, many people “will tell you that they are more comfortable in their home.”

The demand for workers by Ray’s company mirrors national trends and is fueled in part by stepped-up efforts to keep seniors and the disabled out of nursing homes.

The growth is likely to pick up in coming years as the 2010 federal health law tries to reduce hospital readmissions and expands programs such as Money Follows the Person, which encourages Medicaid recipients to receive care at home.

Requirements vary from region to region

The Washington, D.C. area is a good example of how regulation of direct-care workers can really depend on geography.

  • In Maryland, the Board of Nursing licenses all certified nursing assistants and home health aides. The state requires them to complete 100 hours of training. Those working in homes must also undergo an additional 12 hours of training annually, and pass a competency evaluation. They must also undergo a criminal background check. Although Maryland does not standards for personal care aires, some people hire companions to help with household chores, but they are not supposed to provide any care.
  • Virginia requires that certified nurse assistants have 120 hours of training and that home health aides have the 75 hours specified by federal law. Personal care aides must have 40 hours of training if they work for a Medicaid agency. The state requires all employees of home health agencies to have a Virginia State Police check, which does not include fingerprinting.
  • The District mandates that certified nursing assistants have 120 hours of training and that home health aides and personal care aides have 75 hours. People in all three professions also must receive 12 hours of annual training.

-Jessica Marcy

But experts warn that a shortage of qualified labor is looming. Workers often lack the training and support needed to properly care for patients, and poor working conditions lead to high turnover, experts say.

In addition, salaries are low: In 2009, the median national hourly wage for direct-care workers — a term that includes home health aides — was $10.58, substantially below the $15.95 median for all U.S. workers.

Nearly half lived in households that received food stamps, Medicaid or other government aid, according to PHI, an advocacy group for direct-care workers.

In addition, experts say, regulations about training and background checks for direct-care workers vary across states, and often leave consumers without adequate protection.

“I see tremendous challenges on the care side and the consumer side,” said Peggy Powell, national director of curriculum and workforce development at PHI, which is based in New York. “My fear, my deep concern, is that in this quick switch [to provide care at home], there is the potential for care to get worse and for the direct-care workers’ job to get harder, with less support and training.”

A Growing Force

There are several types of direct-care workers, and their titles often vary:

  • Certified nursing assistants provide basic clinical care such as taking blood pressure and caring for wounds. They also help with the activities of daily living such as eating, dressing and bathing. They usually work in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and have at least the 75 hours of training required by the federal government for positions at a Medicare- or Medicaid-certified facility.
  • Home health aides provide similar care but in private homes and under the supervision of a nurse or therapist. If they’re employees of a home care agency, these aides also may need at least 75 hours of training because the federal requirement extends to agencies that serve Medicare and Medicaid patients.
  • Personal care aides work in the home and help with everyday activities such as bathing and also perform light housekeeping and cooking chores. There are no federal requirements for their training, which is generally minimal. About a quarter of these workers are not employed by agencies, according to PHI.

In some states, certified nursing assistants and home health aides can administer medication, although some states require that they get extra training to do that. Personal care aides cannot.

Hannah Asmare struggles to explain in English why she wants to be a home health aide to Venus Ray, executive director of Health Management Inc. Asmare was one of 65 applicants at the home health agency’s group interview process (Photo by Jessica Marcy).

More than 3.2 million people work in direct care, according to 2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is 52 percent more than in 1998. Jobs in direct care are projected to account for four of every 10 new health-care jobs between 2008 and 2018, according to PHI.

‘What’s Your Passion?’

Hannah Asmare struggles to explain in English why she wants to be a home health aide to Venus Ray, executive director of Health Management Inc. Asmare was one of 65 applicants at the home health agency's group interview process (Photo by Jessica Marcy).

Venus Ray begins her group interview by asking: “Why do you want to be a home health care worker? What’s your passion?”

Many describe caring for a loved one, while others say they have been drawn to the field by their deep religious faith. Latreaviette Stewart, 21, says she decided to become an aide after caring for her grandmother, great-aunts and her mother’s best friend, who recently died of breast cancer. She just completed a home health aide program at the Community College of the District of Columbia.

​Pamela Nfor, a 34-year-old aide from Cameroon who has a child with disabilities, says she enjoys seeing how clients, even those who are depressed and can’t go out, improve under her care. “I love the job and I hate the money,” she tells other applicants, who erupt in laughter.

Emotions run deep during the morning’s activities. One West African woman passionately describes how God revealed her vocation to be in home health care after she prayed intensely, while another woman nearly breaks into tears when she’s asked to leave after her cell phone goes off. Both women fail to pass the interview process.

Later, Ray said that she once had to dismiss an entire group of 12 applicants after all of their cell phones rang.

The applicants provide a visual snapshot of national trends. Direct-care workers are disproportionately minorities, and 23 percent are foreign-born. Almost 90 percent are female. The average age is 42, but the number of workers older than 55 is increasing rapidly, according to PHI.

Pamela Nfor, a 34-year old aide from Cameroon who has a child with disabilities, describes why she wants to be a home health aides with Health Management Inc. during a group interview process (Photo by Jessica Marcy).

To ensure a qualified workforce, experts say, it’s important to increase wages, improve training and beef up licensing requirements.

“It’s really important to figure out how to build career ladders for these workers so that they can advance and see this as a real career,” said Bob Konrad, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We have to turn these folks into really active and engaged people in the health policy world.”

This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


As economic conditions force a tighter job market, new nurses find it’s harder than ever to land their dream job—or any job, for that matter.


“Nursing, even in hard times, was thought to be recession-proof.”

Kaiser Logo BlackBy Chris Linden and Melissa Suran, Medill News Service

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Nursing student Barbara Lopez had been told for a long time that she would have an easy time finding a job.

But it took her five months—starting before she graduated in June—to find a job, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. By mid-August, she said, many of her classmates were still unemployed. “I went to Rush because the reputation is very good . . . and it was close to home,” Lopez, 46, said.

Barbara Lopez, 46, graduates from Rush University's College of Nursing. Her son, Nick, 16, stands by her side –  and her decision – to go back to school. (Barbara Lopez)

Barbara Lopez, 46, graduates from Rush University's College of Nursing. Her son, Nick, 16, stands by her side – and her decision – to go back to school. (Barbara Lopez)

Not so long ago, nursing school grads had it much easier. Job opportunities exploded during the past decade.

Facing a shortage of nurses, hospitals were eager to hire qualified nurses. No matter their specialty, nurses were virtually guaranteed a job wherever they pleased.

Nursing, even in hard times, was thought to be recession-proof.

That was before the recent economic collapse. Before current nurses who are hoping to ride out the recession put off retirement or filled full-time jobs – rather than convenient part-time work – to increase their incomes.

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Report predicts strong growth in health employment


The President’s Council of Economic Advisers predicts strong growth in health-related employment in the U.S. over the coming years.

Health care practitioners and technicians, which include physicians, registered nurses, and other health professionals and technicians, are expected to be in increasing demand.  Jobs for medical records and health information technicians  are also projected to increase.   Investments in health information technology will only accelerate the growth in this occupation.

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This and other trends emphasize the need for improved education and training of the U.S. workforce, the report finds.

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