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SEATTLE, Wash. - (Feb. 29, 2008) - Virginia Mason Medical Center and Renton Technical College will embark on an extensive health care worker training program together thanks to a $437,000 Jobs to Careers: Promoting Work-Based Learning for Quality Care grant awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the Hitachi Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant is part of a national initiative to help frontline health care workers by providing training to build skills, increase earning potential, and improve the quality of care and services patients receive. Virginia Mason's proposal with partner Renton Technical College was one of eight projects selected nationwide and the only one in Washington state.

With this grant and additional community support, Virginia Mason and Renton Technical College will focus on training entry-level Virginia Mason employees to become medical assistants. Virginia Mason and Renton Technical College have previously collaborated to provide medical assistant training. This effort will enhance the curriculum and include on-the-job, online and classroom learning opportunities.

Across the United States, 4.7 million frontline health care workers provide patients and clients with preventive and early intervention services, chronic illness management strategies, and long-term and post-hospitalization rehabilitative care. Despite their critical and expanding role in delivering health care, these workers earn less than $40,000 per year on average and have limited opportunities to build skills or advance professionally.

"The industry is experiencing a shortage of health care personnel across the board, but medical assistant positions often see even higher rates of turnover due to lack of training and advancement opportunities," said Marnee Iseman, Virginia Mason vice president of clinic administration and executive sponsor of this project. "Through this partnership with Renton Technical College and the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we will provide new opportunities for people working in reception, housekeeping and food services to advance their careers as skilled medical assistants."

"This is a wonderful opportunity for RTC and VMMC to continue our successful experience providing non-traditional education to a diverse incumbent workforce," said Heather Stephen-Selby, dean of allied health at Renton Technical College. "Both organizations are dedicated to providing employees with the ability to move up the career ladder through onsite education. We feel extremely honored to receive a national grant which provides a new direction for both organizations as we build the health care workforce for today and the future."

The Jobs to Careers projects aim to implement long-term systems changes and test new models of work-based learning, an approach to adult education that emphasizes the employee as learner and the work process itself as a source of learning.

A full list of all projects and further information about Jobs to Careers are available at Boston-based Jobs for the Future serves as the Jobs to Careers National Program Office.

Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a non-profit comprehensive regional health care system that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 400 physicians with a 336-bed acute care hospital in Seattle. In addition, Virginia Mason has a network of clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area, and manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and adult day health program for people living with HIV and AIDS. Virginia Mason also has an internationally recognized research center, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

Renton Technical College (RTC) is one of 34 colleges in the State of Washington operated by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. RTC provides training, retraining and upgrading for persons seeking marketable job skills or upgrading current skills. Specialized programs allow students with or without high school credentials to enter at numerous times, progress in accordance with individual aptitudes, and complete low-cost training making job entry and success possible.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

The Hitachi Foundation is a Washington, DC-based foundation established to enhance the well-being of economically isolated people in the United States. The Foundation systematically invests in path-breaking practices for use by business and nonprofit organizations to mutually address community problems. These practices alleviate conditions that perpetuate poverty and also help to strengthen business.


Alisha Mark
Virginia Mason
(206) 341-1509
Kathy Chavers
Renton Technical College
(425) 235-5842

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