More than 5,000 students and trainees pass through MD Anderson each year. But when our Diagnostic Imaging teams went to offer full-time roles to seniors graduating from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center School of Health Professions (SHP), they often found that our students had accepted roles elsewhere in the Texas Medical Center or around the state.
“With a shortage of quality academic programs in many of these disciplines, our graduates, with the highest quality training from MD Anderson faculty, are in very high demand by health care employers,” says Kimberly Hoggatt Krumwiede, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Professions.
Yet MD Anderson also needs team members with these in-demand skills. That’s why several new educational programs formed in Fiscal Year 2023 are building a pathway for students and trainees to grow into full-time roles at MD Anderson that fill key roles in our workforce and support our busy clinical teams.
Seeing a future at MD Anderson
In partnership with SHP, MD Anderson’s Diagnostic Imaging team launched a pilot program for the 2022-2023 school year: Student Talent Advancing Retention Success (STARS). SHP students in the Diagnostic Imaging program would work part-time in the clinic as diagnostic imaging technologist assistants or radiologic technologists while still taking classes. As they advanced in their coursework and gained their imaging credentials, they would advance in their part-time roles, practicing at the top of their credentials and helping our DI teams care for our patients while gaining valuable experience in the clinic. After students in the program graduate and pass their board exams, they transition into full-time technologist roles.
“This program provided a great opportunity to learn and to reduce my worry about what’s coming after graduation,” says Alana Moryson, one of the pilot’s first 10 participants. “I don’t have to go through the hassle of looking for a job. Once I complete my schoolwork and pass my boards, then I can start at MD Anderson – and I’m preparing for everything I have to know in the meantime.”
Our DI teams aren’t just able to ensure they’ve connected with our graduates to get the best new hires. The STARS program also benefits care teams and the students themselves. Because students like Moryson train with MD Anderson’s teams and experience the culture and best practices in their part-time role, the transition into a full-time role and fulfilling career is smooth and requires little onboarding.
“Not only are students getting paid to learn; they’re eligible for MD Anderson’s benefits, including our Tuition Assistance Program,” says Deralyn Miller, director, Diagnostic Operations Business Development. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students and for MD Anderson, which benefits by creating a pathway to employment for our highly sought-after students.” The first five STARS participants graduated from SHP in August 2023 and are now full-time DI employees. Based on the pilot program’s success, SHP doubled the number of participants in the second cohort. Additionally, SHP has partnered with Pathology and Laboratory Medicine to implement the STARS program for students within our Clinical Laboratory Science, Cytogenetic Technology, Histotechnology and Molecular Genetic Technology programs during the 2023-2024 school year.
Earn while you learn
In some cases, MD Anderson needs to fill critical roles but does not offer a degree or certificate program in that specialty. This is where the division of Education and Training’s Education Development and Innovation team has gotten creative, partnering with groups across MD Anderson to identify opportunities to create external apprenticeships.
This past spring, MD Anderson began accepting students from the Houston Community College (HCC) Phlebotomy Certificate Program in a paid 12-month phlebotomy apprenticeship. These apprentices participate in a structured curriculum at HCC and on-the-job, hands-on training at MD Anderson working with our phlebotomists. Apprentices are members of MD Anderson’s workforce and eligible for benefits, paid leave and an increase in salary as they prove more proficient in their skills.
A second apprenticeship, as part of our Nursing Transformation efforts, brought three new apprentices to train as patient care technicians, a key role on our care teams. Through this program, students in HCC’s Certified Nurse Aide program learn alongside our nursing professionals and gain a stable foundation of health care skills to build upon, hopefully, as members of our care teams after they graduate.
Victoria Stephen was working as an X-ray technician when a physician suggested she train in phlebotomy so she could work with other forms of imaging equipment, like MRI. She began the program at HCC and has enjoyed every day she’s been training at MD Anderson since she started in our Diagnostic Laboratory Center in February.
Stephen has found a huge advantage to the on-the-job training she’s receiving in her apprenticeship. She’s a hands-on learner and is getting to experience the daily job of a phlebotomist alongside experienced professionals while building relationships with her MD Anderson coworkers.
“It’s wonderful to be able to learn and gain valuable skills while I’m also getting to interact with our patients and see where I can make an impact,” she says. “I want to do everything I can do to bring a smile to them and brighten their day while they’re here. This apprenticeship has been such a blessing.”
A promising future for pathway programs
As the apprenticeship programs have shown promise, more are being constructed, including apprenticeships for hospitality and food service to be launched in the coming year. With so many different pathway programs being created, especially those involving apprentices, MD Anderson is becoming a model for how these types of training programs can provide a quality education and benefit both the student and the health care organization well into the future.
And there’s an added bonus: By providing support for our busy clinical teams, apprentices help reduce employees’ workloads at a lower financial cost to MD Anderson since the Texas Workforce Commission will pay a portion of each qualifying apprentice’s salary.
MD Anderson has received recognition for creating quality training programs that support students and set them up for future success, including being named the 2023 Gulf Coast Region Apprenticeship Employer of the Year for our commitment to growing the workforce in the greater Houston area and the Catering and Hospitality Provider of the Year in recognition of the thoughtful construction of the program launching in 2024.
“Many skilled trades have been using an apprenticeship model for years, and we’re taking best practices from other programs and applying them to hard-to-fill roles here at MD Anderson,” says Miranda Phillips, program director, Workforce Innovations. “Our Education Development and Innovation team is dedicated to partnering with the Texas Workforce Commission and schools and universities in the area to create opportunities for learners to train with our experts in their chosen field.”