Magazine article Training & Development

A Hospital's Prescription for Illiteracy

Magazine article Training & Development

A Hospital's Prescription for Illiteracy

Article excerpt

After years of providing continuing-education opportunities for employees, including college tuition reimbursement for full- and part-time employees, Methodist Medical Center of Illinois realized it needed to do more to train its employees who were deficient in basic literacy skills. The nonprofit hospital in Peoria employs nearly 3,000 workers. Methodist has a long-standing reputation as a dedicated teaching institution. It has many health-career education programs in place.

Many of the continuing-education refresher courses and management development classes available at Methodist are designed for clinical and management staff. Other classes offered at the medical center, such as medical terminology and writing skills improvement, are available to all employees.

Methodist began a new program called "People In Progress," the first the medical center has offered to teach employees the basic skills of reading, English, math, and English as a second language. The program is named after a similar program at the Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center in Florida.

The medical center offers the program to employees during paid work time. Methodist also pays all fees for tuition, books, and classroom materials.

Development and implementation

To begin, Methodist's department of human resources gathered information to use in developing guidelines for the program. Sources included professional journals, the state literacy office, and hospitals with similar programs in place.

HRD staff members approached Illinois Central College (ICC) to become involved in developing and implementing the program. ICC offers basic skills training, GED preparation, and English as a second language classes on its campus. Its adult basic education program curriculum was adapted to fit the needs of the Methodist program.

Before we made it available to the whole organization, we piloted the program. The program identified four departments that had large numbers of employees who would be likely to enroll: supply, processing, and delivery; consolidated linen; environmental services (housekeeping); and food service.

Before the program began, the potential participants learned how Methodist supported the program, how they could enroll, and how classes are designed. They also learned the purpose of skills testing, the format of the classes, and the expectations the company would have of trainees.

The response to the initial meetings far surpassed the expectations of the program developers. Sixty-five employees took skills assessment tests and met individually with ICC representatives to discuss their test results and courses of study.

Fourteen employees tested out of the program; the other 51 enrolled in classes. The 14 employees who tested at higher skill levels received free career testing and counseling.

The supervisors of the 51 employees helped develop class schedules that would allow the trainees to attend during paid work time. Supervisor support and encouragement is an important impetus for the employees to remain in the program and work toward their goals.

Individualizing instruction

Methodist keeps class sizes to eight or nine students to allow for individual instruction. ICC requires at least 15 students for an off-campus class, so Methodist pays tuition for 15 but limits class size in order to maintain the effectiveness of the smaller, personalized classes. …

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