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Friday, Apr 5, 2024

Ballad Health investing in future healthcare careers with ‘Exploring Healthcare Careers’ event at Norton Community Hospital, Claude Moore Program

Ballad Health, working in tandem with the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Mountain Empire Community College, will inspire, educate and empower the next generation of healthcare professionals with a careers event on Tuesday, April 9, for local middle and high school students.

Called Exploring Healthcare Careers, the event will take place in the main lobby of the hospital, with middle school sessions beginning at 4 p.m. and high school sessions beginning at 6 p.m. Exploring Healthcare Careers will provide parents and students with valuable information about pathways into health science careers and build awareness and understanding of the opportunities available at UVA Wise and Mountain Empire Community College.

“Exploring Healthcare Careers is an excellent event to provide a gateway for students and their families to explore exciting opportunities in healthcare careers,” said Shannon Showalter, chief executive officer for Ballad Health operations in Wise, Lee and Dickenson counties.

“Understanding the diverse array of healthcare careers available is essential for students and their families as they navigate their future paths. By learning about these opportunities early on, students can make informed decisions that can ultimately lead to a fulfilling and successful career in healthcare. We believe that providing access to this knowledge empowers individuals to explore their passions and embark on journeys that positively impact both their lives and the communities they serve.”

During the event, attendees will be able to speak with Ballad Health team members and gain firsthand experience of the environment and roles of different healthcare professionals. Recruiters from UVA Wise and Mountain Empire Community College will also be onsite to provide information about financial aid opportunities and program requirements.

Exploring Healthcare Careers is part of a comprehensive and concerted effort by Ballad Health to engage more students in the Appalachian Highlands about healthcare careers and create a pipeline of future professionals to address healthcare workforce shortages.

In Southwest Virginia, that work took an enormous step forward in April 2022, when the health system partnered with the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation program and educational institutions to create a program to help Wise County students gain exposure to healthcare careers and progress towards certified nursing assistant (CNA) licenses, nursing and technical certifications. So far, more than 1,500 students from grades 5 to 8 have participated in the program.

"Ballad Health is committed to improving the future of the Appalachian Highlands, and education is a cornerstone of that,” said Dr. Matthew Loos, Ballad Health’s chief academic officer. “Through this grant and the generosity of the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, we’re opening more doors for local students, introducing them to the full spectrum of healthcare careers, while also helping them achieve career goals and professional satisfaction."

Through the program, MECC and UVA Wise collaborate to accommodate students’ progressions into advanced degrees. Students also have the opportunity to work in roles of increasing responsibility at Ballad Health facilities with flexible schedules to support their educational journeys.

The Claude Moore Scholars program spans across Wise County and Norton City Middle Schools, including Union Middle School, Coeburn Middle School, LF Addington Middle School, JW Adams Combined School, St. Paul Elementary School and Norton Elementary and Middle School.

“Investing in the education and career development of students in Southwest Virginia through Claude Moore Scholars is one of the ways we honor our founder’s mission to offer a ‘leg up, not a handout,’” said Dr. William Hazel, MD, who serves as the senior deputy executive director of the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation.

“Through these partnerships, we are leveraging in-community experts, such as Ballad Health, to address current healthcare workforce shortages and sow the seeds for a sustainable and thriving future. This initiative is not just about creating more jobs; it's about nurturing a workforce that will enhance the quality of care for patients throughout the Appalachian Highlands, ensuring a healthier and more robust community for generations to come."

For Tennessee-based students, Ballad Health announced an initiative in January 2024 to combat the shortage of healthcare professionals by partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies, community colleges, career technical education centers, and five local school districts to launch Ballad Health Academy.

Set to open in fall 2025, Ballad Health Academy is an innovative school-within-a-school approach, providing access to accelerated education and training in healthcare careers. Graduating students from Ballad Health Academy will have the opportunity to enter high-demand healthcare jobs with sustaining wages immediately upon high school graduation. The program is designed to initially serve more than 400 students, with plans to expand and impact thousands of students throughout the Appalachian Highlands. Once established, the program will look to be replicated in Southwest Virginia.

Another step taken by Ballad Health to address turnover and labor shortages was a $33 million investment into nursing pay adjustments and adjustments for certain support roles, which was announced in February 2024. This is in addition to the nearly $100 million Ballad Health is spending annually on pay adjustments implemented since 2021.