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SNCAHRSP Evaluation Report June 2011

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  • 1. Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc. Evaluation of theSouthern NC Allied HealthRegional Skills Partnership An independent review of partnership progress and implementation work for the period of July 2009 – June 30, 2011 June 2011
  • 2. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011Table of Contents I. Overview II. Methods III. History of SNCAHRSP and Implementation Plan IV. Impact of SNCAHRSP July 2009 – June 2011 a. Systems changes and accomplishments b. Barriers and challenges V. Survey results VI. SWOT Analysis VII. Recommendations for Sustaining the Partnership VIII. Summary1|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 3. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 I. OverviewThis report provides and independent evaluation of the Southern North Carolina AlliedHealth Regional Skills Partnership (SNCAHRSP) and the two year implementation plan of asector initiative to reduce allied health workforce vacancies in the region.The purpose of this report is to explore the impact of the partnership’s efforts and identifystrengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to continued progress upon the end of thefunded implementation period. II. MethodsThe following methods were used to collect information and make observations about theSNCAHRSP and partnership activities:  A 10-question survey was developed and distributed to all partnership members using surveymonkey.com  Meeting minutes from general partnership meetings held between July 2009 – June 2011, as well as grant quarterly reports that were submitted during this time, were reviewed  Direct observation of partnership meetings and retreats attended by Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc. representative  Interviews with SNCARSP staff  Review of current literature on healthcare workforce issues and sector initiatives2|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 4. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 III. History of SNCARSP and Implementation PlanIn October of 2007, the North Carolina Department of Commerce (NCDOC) awarded sevenregional planning grants to workforce development boards across the state for thedevelopment of regional skills partnerships. The partnerships were to plan sector initiatives,which are regional, industry-led economic development models that seek to alignemployers, educational institutions, workforce and economic development agencies, andother stakeholders to address workforce shortages. Allied health was selected as the targetindustry in projection of approximately 250,000 new jobs over the coming decade. AlliedHealth Regional Skills Partnerships (AHRSPs) were patterned after similar partnershipsacross the country that have successfully used sector initiatives re-employ adult dislocatedworkers and provide career pathways to advance low-wage workers into higher-wage, high-demand occupations.Lumber River Workforce Development Board (LRWDB), based in Pembroke, NC, received a$50,000 planning grant. LRWDB subcontracted to Southern Regional Area Health EducationCenter (SRAHEC) based in Fayetteville to serve as the intermediary to convene thepartnership and provide administrative leadership for the work. The SNCAHRSP’s servicerarea encompassed Bladen, Cumberland, Hoke, Moore, Richmond, Robeson and Scotlandcounties. The partnership that was formed included the following partners that signed aMemorandum of Agreement (MOA):  Workforce Development Boards: Lumber River (fiscal agent), Pee Dee, Cumberland County  Healthcare employers: Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Scotland Memorial Hospital, Southeastern Regional Medical Center  Community Colleges: Bladen, Fayetteville Technical, Richmond, Robeson, Sandhills  University: UNC-Pembroke  K-12 School Systems: Cumberland and Hoke  AHEC: Southern Regional  Base Realignment and Closure Regional Task Force (BRAC-RTF)The SNCAHRSP developed an implementation plan targeting Physical Therapists (PTs) andPhysical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) as these two professions represented more than 50% ofall tracked allied health vacancies in the region.The SNCAHRSP was awarded an implementation grant in the amount of $250,000 from theNCDOC in July 2009 to fund the collaborative work prescribed in the partnership’s sectorplan through June 2011.Midway through the implementation plan (July 2010), the SNCAHRSP had made significantprogress toward goals addressing PT/PTA vacancies and revised the plan to target newly3|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 5. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011identified professions, including medical coders, medical lab technicians, and OccupationalTherapists/Occupational Therapy Assistants.This report will evaluate the impact of the SNCAHRSP’s implementation period and willprovide recommendations for sustainability and continued work toward reducing alliedhealth vacancies in the region. IV. Impact of the SNCAHRSP July 2009 – June 2011The following systems changes and accomplishments have been identified as theSNCAHRP’s key contributions toward reducing allied health vacancy rates in the region:  Improved access to the region’s only PTA program. The program, based at FTCC in Fayetteville, is now available to students in the eastern and western parts of the region through consortium agreements with Bladen and Sandhills Community Colleges.  An increased graduation rate has been observed in the PTA program. Prior to the start of the implementation period, the graduation rate was historically 12 of 18 students. Dr. Heidi Shearin, PTA Program Chair at FTCC reports that the 2011 graduation rate was 16 of 18 students and states that “the PTA program retention rate is higher than it has ever been.” Dr. Shearin reports that student supports implemented by the SNCAHRSP have contributed to the increase in student retention and graduation.  A new career ladder model was developed and implemented among partner hospitals in the region that has helped fill vacant jobs. The career ladder model employs second year PTA students as “PT Aides” at local employers with the ultimate goal of promoting them to PTAs upon graduation from FTCC. Teresa Sessoms, Recruitment Director at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, reports that the career ladder program has helped fill long-term PTA vacancies.  A new Hospital Inpatient Medical Coding Specialist certificate program was developed by FTCC in response to the region’s growing need for skilled inpatient coding professionals. The program was approved in 2010 by the NC Community College System and the curriculum available to any community college in the state that wishes to offer the certificate program.  Training gaps among medical coding specialists were addressed with continuing education to strengthen the knowledge and skill level of the existing coding workforce and prepare coding professionals for advancement into higher-wage jobs.  A Medical Laboratory Technologist Reverse Transfer program is being explored and planned at Sandhills Community College. Ron Layne at Sandhills Community College4|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 6. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 shares that the identification of need and the establishment of regional support for the program were a result of participation in the SNCAHRP.  Relationships were built and strengthened among organizations and individuals participating in the SNCAHRSP. Networking was consistently reported as one of the most valuable benefits of participating in the partnership.The SCNAHRSP faced its share of challenges in accomplishing the above success.  The SNCAHRSP felt the impact of the economic recession throughout the duration of the implementation period. Resource cuts and restrictions impacted every aspect of the partnership’s efforts and outcomes.  Employers reported layoffs and position cuts, which impacted the availability of vacant jobs that the partnership sought to fill.  Colleges and universities were unable to implement new degree programs due to state budget restrictions. The much anticipated Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UNC-P, for example, is currently on hold due in part to funding cuts to the university. In a region already suffering from a pronounced shortage of skilled allied health professions programs, absolute restrictions on new program start-ups limited the partnership’s ability to create new training pipelines for supplying healthcare professionals to the local workforce.  Regional capacity to train skilled allied health professionals is limited by the availability of clinical placements. Stringent requirements for facilities and preceptors severely restrict the number of students that can matriculate through health professions programs in the region.  Unequal participation among all partners may impact long-term sustainability. Several partners reported that their participation was limited by the demands of their full-time work roles and responsibilities, and expressed concerns that their voices and interests were underrepresented in the partnership. Other partners held perceptions that SNCAHRSP funding and efforts benefitted some agencies more than others may affect collaboration the future. V. Survey ResultsA 10-question survey was developed and launched using the freeware version ofsuverymonkey.com. The survey was launched May 13 and closed May 27, 2011. The link tothe survey was emailed out to all individuals listed on the partnership roster as of May 13,2011. Responses were collected anonymously and participation in the survey wasencouraged regardless of the amount of time or level of active involvement in theSNCAHRSP. A total of 15 individuals responded to the survey, which is approximately one-third of the partners listed on the roster. Screenshots of questions and responses follow.5|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 7. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 20116|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 8. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 20117|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 9. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 20118|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 10. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 20119|© Connor Communications and Consulting, Inc.
  • 11. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 201110 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 12. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 201111 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 13. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 201112 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 14. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011General Observations from Survey Responses  More than half of the responders to the survey represent community colleges. This was a reasonable response as community college partners were strong leaders in most of the partnership initiatives and projects. Attendance at meetings also reflects strong and consistent participation from community college partners.  The length of time that partners have been involved in the partnership is fairly evenly distributed between one and three years. This is reflective of the nature of the partnership; membership will change as priorities change. It appears that the group has seen healthy growth throughout the planning and implementation periods as inaugural members are still active in the partnership, and new members are recruited and engaged in each year.  The majority of partners report ‘moderate’ attendance at partnership meetings (5-7 meetings per year). o The activities that garnered the most active participation from partners were: Boot Camp Planning (53% of respondents) o Curriculum Development (47%) o Student Supports Development (40%) o Attending Learning Exchanges or Conferences (40%) These responses reflect good engagement of partners in activities that were strongly tied to key priorities in the implementation plan.  The majority of the partners responding to the survey thought that Southern Regional AHEC’s role as intermediary and administrative leader of the partnership was excellent (80%) or good (13%)  When asked to articulate two of the partnership’s accomplishments, nearly all respondents could provide two responses that accurately represented partnership efforts and outcomes. Most of the responses addressed the partnership’s work done to address PT and PTA vacancies. Interventions for the medical coding professions were also reported.  Almost all partners reported one or more direct benefits to themselves or their organizations as a result of participating in the SNCAHRSP. Networking and relationship-building was the most consistently reported benefit.  The greatest barrier to participation reported by respondents was meeting times that conflicted with work schedules. Long distance travel to meetings was also reported as a common barrier. Other barriers included finances, conflicting priorities and starting late in the implementation period.  When asked to identify barriers to sustaining the SNCARSHP, the loss of funding and loss of designated staff were consistent responses among nearly all survey participants. One respondent voiced concern that the partnership only benefitted AHEC financially, and held a perception that an organization had lost more resources than what it could recoup on partnership efforts.13 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 15. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011  Respondents were asked to report what they would change to make the partnership more successful. Responses ranged from ‘nothing’ to finding new funding and making meetings more efficient with the use of technology. Concerns were expressed throughout the survey that participation may decline and the partnership may be in danger of dissolving without secured funding and staffing. VI. SWOT AnalysisThe following strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats clearly emerge from thefindings. Strengths Weaknesses Good track record of accomplishments  Large geographical region makes all- Regional and national recognition as a inclusive face-to-face meetings successful model for workforce and difficult/impossible economic development initiatives  Economic recession persists Active, engaged partners  Perception of inequality in participation Committed volunteer board of directors and/or benefit Successful records of grant acquisition and grant management Opportunities Threats Common desire to continue efforts  Loss of funding BRAC regional growth  Loss of staff New healthcare facilities  Competing priorities New grant opportunities  Perception of inequality in participation Regional allied health vacancy rates are and/or benefit worsening – is the region approaching a tipping point that will lead to systems changes because they can be postponed no longer?14 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 16. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 VII. Recommendations for Sustaining the SNCAHRSP  Read the National Fund for Workforce Solution’s Report on Sustainability of Sector Projects at http://www.nfwsolutions.org/downloads/publications/NFWSsustainability.pdf.  Immediately re-assess needs and set new priorities. As the SNCAHRSP is preparing to transition to a new model of self-management with volunteer leadership and in-kind support, there is an opportunity for the group to re- define itself and the direction of its work. The group may wish to consider: o Are there newly emerging allied health professions that present higher priorities than those previously targeted? o Are there other high-shortage professions (nursing, medicine, pharmacy) that should be included in the partnership’s focus to amplify the impact of efforts? o Are there other counties that should be added to the partnership’s recognized region? o A new needs assessment and planning process will help new partners who joined the SNCAHRSP at a later time to feel that they are now involved ‘from the beginning’ and will give them a say in determining partnership activities from this point forward.  Establish a new memorandum of understanding, a new work plan and new bylaws or ground rules for the partnership. o This can be an opportunity re-solidify commitment and formalize in writing the new direction of the partnership. o A less ambitious structure, plan, set of guidelines, etc., may take the pressure off of the partnership to continue producing outcomes like those that were achieved with funding and staffing.  Set a new meeting schedule and use of technology to conduct meetings. o Partnership meetings have been held monthly over the past three years, but most partners report that they are only able to attend 5-7 meetings per year. It may be helpful to cut back to meetings every other month or quarterly. o Explore the use of technology to conduct meetings – conference calls, videoconferencing, email and chat meetings, etc. Research free and low-cost modalities such as freeconferencecall.com and skype.com. o Ask for partners with major responsibilities to provide written reports if they are unable to attend meetings, or call in a report on a speakerphone. It15 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 17. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 appeared in the meeting minutes that there were regular delays in making decisions or moving forward with action items if a project leader was unable to attend a face-to-face meeting. Use technology to involve people who cannot be physically present. o Use social media to build online communities (linkedin, facebook, twitter, etc.). Use chat, discussion board, and other features of online communities to quickly disseminate information and engage members in online discussions.  Identify new leadership to grow within the partnership o Develop a succession plan for current volunteer board of directors. o Approach candidates for leadership now to mentor and prepare for leadership roles.  Continue to seek out funding for the partnership. o Monitor grant opportunities at grants.gov and assemble a grants team to assess the suitability of grant solicitations for the partnership’s needs. o Monitor the progress of the SECTORS (Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Successes) Act (S 665 HR 1240) and contact legislators to voice support for the Act. If the Act passes, it could provide sustainable government funding to sustain sector initiatives.  Until sustainable funding is identified, seek out sponsorships for expense-bearing partnership activities. o Partner organizations may not be able to pay set membership fees, but may be able to sponsor or contribute to isolated expenses, such as meetings, conferences, meals, printing, etc. Recognize sponsors visibly and memorably for their contributions.  Join professional communities and network with peers engaged in sector initiatives. o Consider holding a joint yearly meeting with the other allied health regional skills partnerships in North Carolina for networking. o Seek out speaking opportunities at conferences and networking events to present about the SCNAHRSP. o Explore membership with the National Network of Sector Partners (www.nnsp.org). o Send a partnership representative to the bi-annual National Network of Sector Partners Conference or the National Council on Workforce Education conference (www.ncwe.org).16 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .
  • 18. Evaluation of the Southern NC Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership June 2011 VIII. SummaryThe Southern North Carolina Allied Health Regional Skills Partnership has drawn muchregional and national attention in its nearly four years of existence. In spite of thechallenges brought on by the economic recession, the partnership has been recognized forits ability to build capacity and create systems changes that result in measurable impact tothe region’s workforce. Now, the SNCAHRSP faces its greatest challenge yet with the end ofgrant funding and the loss of staff as of June 30, 2011.A survey of the membership reveals that partners are knowledgeable and proud of theSCNAHRSP’s accomplishments, see value in collaboration and are committed to continuingthe work. A volunteer board of directors will assume the responsibilities of coordinatingpartner meetings and projects to move the partnership forward.This transition time is an opportunity for the SNCAHRSP to redefine itself, assess new needs,recruit new stakeholders and chart a new course. The partnership should continue to seekfunding and will need to invest time and energy in staying abreast of legislation and trendsimpacting sector work. The SNCAHRSP should invest its future by identifying and growingnew leadership now.17 | © C o n n o r C o m m u n i c a t i o n s a n d C o n s u l t i n g , I n c .