How a single solution supports population health and workforce shortages

Nov. 22, 2022

Earlier this year, Jeremy Strong, the supply chain system vice president for Rush University Medical Center, spoke at the GHX Summit about work his organization is doing to support local economic development on the west side of Chicago. As an active member of the Healthcare Anchor Network, Rush has invested in a number of programs, including local impact purchasing to help generate job opportunities and address the root causes of poverty and, in turn, health disparities in the communities it serves.

At the Summit, we also hosted discussions around how to address critical labor shortages, and that got Jeremy asking: “Was there a way Rush could address both issues by hiring more individuals from the west side to fill open positions in supply chain at the health system?” When Jeremy asked some of his current team members from the west side their opinion, he discovered an unfortunate truth. Too often, those interested in positions at Rush had trouble even getting an interview.  One employee, who is a top performer, shared that he had applied unsuccessfully multiple times for jobs at Rush; he was only able to get a job by going through an employment agency.

Being a good systems thinker, Strong once again thought about the root causes, and together with his team realized that many of these potential employees did not make it through the initial screening because they lacked opportunities to gain relevant experience before applying. Many also needed support to develop what Strong calls power skills, such as resume building, communication, and/or customer service.  Speaking with community leaders, Strong also discovered other barriers, including lack of transportation and/or childcare.

That’s when things began to fall into place. Just as Strong and team were thinking about how they could provide some entry level knowledge, experience and skills, he was contacted by the Tullman Foundation and InUrban Strategies, which were looking to do some business incubation on the west side. Together, they realized they had similar visions in mind, and both, with a bias for action, got to work. Within a matter of months, their vision had turned into reality.  An inaugural cohort began training at the Jump Higher center on the west side in mid-November; upon graduation they will be offered interviews with Rush and other organizations looking for supply chain talent.

The Tullman Foundation is providing the power skills training, the stipends and the critical wrap around services, like childcare and transportation; Strong and his team, along with supply chain professionals from its distributor Concordance, will provide not only classroom-style overviews of key entry-level supply chain subjects, such as purchasing and inventory, but also job shadowing. Previously, Rush had chosen Concordance as its distribution partner after the company said it would hire and train local residents to work at a new center it would build on the west side. Strong also hopes this helps expose the potential for building a career in supply chain, vs. seeing it as just another job.

For Strong, this is not just about helping address the health system’s workforce challenges. He says this is fundamentally about supporting historically disinvested communities by helping people find not only a job, but a career with upward advancement possibilities. As Strong describes it, while providing resources, such as nutritious food, to struggling families and communities is valuable, investing in communities through job training can give people the resources they need to change their lives for the better. 

He brings this sentiment to life as he describes the pride of one worker who now supports the hospital where so many of her family members have been treated. This is her hospital, her community, and she is passionate about making life better for herself, her family and her neighborhood. In Strong’s words, “Why wouldn’t you want someone with that much passion on your team?”

Karen Conway works to advance the role of the supply chain as a critical enabler in the pursuit of a value-based healthcare system. As Vice President, Healthcare Value for Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX), Conway explores how the supply chain and improved data quality and visibility can support understanding of what increases value for patients and to those organizations that develop and deliver healthcare products and services.

About the Author

Karen Conway

Karen Conway works to advance the role of the supply chain as a critical enabler in the pursuit of a value-based healthcare system. As Vice President, Healthcare Value for Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX), Conway explores how the supply chain and improved data quality and visibility can support understanding of what increases value for patients and to those organizations that develop and deliver healthcare products and services.