Blount Memorial is more than the hospital, and as one of the largest employers in Blount County, it hires a lot more than doctors and nurses.
“We’ve got over a thousand different job titles within our building,” said Katherine Hill, human resources manager for Blount Memorial. “The diversity of our needs in order to function and run this kind of an operation is huge. There’s so many things outside of what you would typically think of at the hospital that can be considered.”
In addition to about 2,500 hospital workers Blount Memorial has about 1,000 more employees spread among the East Tennessee Medical Group, Wellness Centers, transitional care and assisted living facility at Morning View Village and its financial operations center in downtown Maryville.
Among the top 10 positions it hired for last year, three are related to nursing, but it also needs a range of other employees, some for positions that require training or certifications and others that do not.
Patient access associates, those who check you in when you arrive, need a combination of skills, explained Katherine Hill, human resources manager for Blount Memorial. “You have to have someone that is very computer savvy and good with the public.”
Blount Memorial also hires people who cook meals and clean. “Finding good people that will do a good job and stay long term in those positions is challenging,” she said.
Nurses, CNAs in demand
Demand for nurses remains high, and with the aging population the number of nurses and nursing assistants needed is expected to grow nationally.
“The market is so competitive,” Hill said. “There are so many different opportunities and so many different specialty areas that they can go into.”
Previously Blount Memorial would hire certified nursing assistants only when they were 18 and had earned their high school diploma. Now 18 year olds with the CNA credential can work “PRN” — the medical lingo for as needed — while they finish high school.
Many area students in the CNA programs complete a clinical rotation with Blount Memorial, and starting as an employee in that career is another way to get their foot in the door.
“It gives them the opportunity to know if health care — and more specifically nursing — is a field they want to continue to grow in,” said Jana Spradlin, employment specialist for Blount Memorial’s nursing division.
“We want to get them in the door, because a lot of times the folks that we hire into those positions are looking to further their career, and a lot of times we see that they go on to get their LPN or their RN, so we can retain that employee a little bit longer,” Spradlin said. Blount Memorial even offer a tuition reimbursement program for employees furthering their education.
While many students want to continue straight into training to be a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse, Spradlin recommends being a CNA first, because it require less training and provides experience in the health care setting, which may or may not match their expectation.
“You start at the bottom, and I think you appreciate, if you decide to go on to the LPN or the RN, you really appreciate those folks that do the CNA work,” she said.
A CNA works about a 12-hour shift, taking patients’ vital signs and answering the call light, making sure patients have what they need, which includes taking them to the bathroom or helping them clean up.
“They go into it thinking that its going to be glamorous, and it is very far from it, but those folks are just as important as the registered nurses are, as much as the environmental services staff is, as much as the food and nutrition staff is,” Spradlin said. “They are all needed.”
“We want and encourage employees to grow in their positions, with their education and their jobs,” Spradlin said. “We have a great transfer program also.”
For example, one of Blount Memorial’s current registered nurses started as a food service employee.
Blount Memorial holds nursing recruitment events for its current staff. “We like to look at our transfers before we look outside the organization,” Hill said.
Tuition reimbursement and transfer opportunities allow employees to grow in their careers while staying with the organization. “I am personally one that has utilized both throughout my career with the hospital,” Spradlin said. “It was huge and very helpful getting me through my bachelor’s degree.”
Spradlin started with Blount Memorial as a summer volunteer, and both she and Hill have encouraged their own children to participate in the volunteer program.
“They do mock interviews when you go in, so it gives them that experience,” Spradlin said. “They get the experience of interacting with people on a professional level, and they get to work in different areas to see if health care or something along those lines is something they would want to do.”
Her oldest son, now studying to be a physical therapist, started with Blount Memorial four years ago as a server in the assisted living facility and now works in the Cherokee fitness center.
But Blount Memorial isn’t just interested in people at the beginning of their career. Hill notes that the hospital’s phone system operator has been with the organization for 50 years, and the transfer program also enables workers to make transitions later in life. For example, a longtime environmental services worker has become a patient sitter, which require less physical activity.
Hill also sees Blount Memorial’s culture and work environment as another benefit that draws employees.
“Because we are a smaller community hospital, you get to know people more on a first-name basis, and you become more a family than you are just co-workers,” Hill said. “I think that’s huge. A lot of people are drawn to our facility because of that.”