June 2, 2022

Vanderbilt is Now Training Truck Drivers and EVS Workers To Be Medical Assistants

Vanderbilt is Now Training Truck Drivers and EVS Workers To Be Medical Assistants

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been in the news a lot recently. It’s the hospital RaDonda Vaught worked at prior to being charged with the death of her patient. Well, it’s made national news again. This time, it is training truck drivers and janitorial staff to fill much-needed medical clinical roles. The first group of students began training on April 25 and will continue through July 15.

Nashville State Community College in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center is training current employees, some current delivery drivers, and others such as environmental staff to fill more clinical positions. Currently, Vanderbilt has more than 100 openings for medical assistants. As medical assistants, they’ll call in prescriptions, interview patients about their medical histories, and take vital signs.

Since Vaught’s arrest, Vanderbilt has had one of the highest turnover rates of healthcare professionals in the country. This is slightly to be expected as there are over 29,000 employees at the medical center and its affiliate offices. Historically speaking, very large employers will see a higher turnover rate than smaller companies. 

“The turnover has been tremendous,” said Vanderbilt’s vice president for allied health education, Peggy Valentine. “So the thinking was, why don’t we work with our employees, build a sense of loyalty? And then we’ve got a workforce that’s likely to stay with us in the long haul.”

Under this new program, employees train for 12 weeks in both the classroom and clinical settings. Upon successful completion of the program, employees will be offered new positions as medical assistants. And with that also comes a pay raise. Vanderbilt increased the hourly wage of medical assistants from $17 to nearly $21 an hour. For the current participants in the program, this is a pay increase. 

While the pay isn’t always a motivating factor, it is a nice bump according to Clifford Johnson. He is currently one of the students in the first training program. Johnson has worked for Vanderbilt for seven years as a lead driver for a team that shuttles surgical instruments back and forth to get sterilized.

“When I was driving a truck. I just dealt with driving a truck,” he said. “I felt like I could do more in this particular field.” 

This may seem like a great opportunity for some employees - especially those that may not have the financial means to attend a program like this. But there is always a catch. Vanderbilt does reimburse its employees for the program and guarantees a new position within the healthcare system but participants are still expected to work their full job duties. 

“A lot of times, you have to go to work, then leave work, go to school, then you’ve got family. You need 28 hours in the day instead of 24, and without any sleep,” Johnson said.

Vanderbilt expects that this program will have great success and is already planning for another cohort in the fall as well as working with a group of high school students that will earn their medical assistant certifications over the summer. Vanderbilt is utilizing “creative solutions” to fill the much-needed clinical roles. 

Some employees are thrilled at the opportunity to do more and work alongside patients, increase their salary, and even do more meaningful work - others are more skeptical of the training program. Nurse influencers on social media are appalled by this training program and are saying it is showing how desperate the Vanderbilt healthcare system is as healthcare workers from the hospital have walked out after Vaught’s conviction. 

There is no denying that it is an interesting solution to their current worker shortage but unlike some hospitals, Vanderbilt is at least trying to fill the roles. Added a dozen medical assistants might not make the biggest difference especially for nurses but it is a step in the right direction and is more than some are currently doing. 

Go to the top of page