By BETSY TAYLOR
Providence St. Joseph Health employees looking to build new professional relationships and to learn about various aspects of the health care system and the communities where it operates have banded together in a networking group called ProvNext.
ProvNext is geared toward employees early in their careers who feel they'd benefit from understanding more about roles within the health care system beyond their own jobs. Participation is open to every employee, said Meredith Sciarrio. She is director of strategy and integration for Providence St. Joseph Health's community partnerships division and chair of the ProvNext chapter in Renton, Wash., where the health system is based.
There are six active chapters, with three in Washington and one each in Oregon, California and Montana. Most chapters are based out of a regional administrative office.
ProvNext doesn't have a budget. Planning meetings for the group can be held during office hours, as part of the system's commitment to employee development. Participants rotate responsibility for event planning and presentations. Events are often held on the lunch hour, with participants taking part in social events on their own time. Each ProvNext chapter aims to host one event each month, offering a mix of lunch-and-learn sessions and professional, philanthropic, mission-focused and social gatherings.
Sciarrio said ProvNext members have said they learn about the talents of others in the group, and feel more connected to the work they themselves do for the health care system. Participants may see opportunities for career paths as they learn through informal presentations about the work and job progressions of those more senior to them.
A plan hatched over sushi
ProvNext began informally in 2009 and it is still a grassroots operation. Sciarrio said each regional chapter has an area steering committee. Two members from each chapter participate in the ProvNext Council, which has a virtual meeting once a quarter to discuss upcoming events in their regions, best practices and opportunities for cross-chapter collaboration.
Providence St. Joseph Health employees hear about philanthropy strategies to support the senior service ministry at a Renton, Wash., gathering organized by ProvNext, a networking and professional group for employees. They are, from left to right, Denise Bowen, Aliza Kwiatek, Natalie Wang, Anda Christian and Bella Gonzalez.
The spark for the organization came when six Providence Health & Services employees were having sushi during a break from their work on an electronic medical record project. Although most of them were from the same division, they were from different disciplines, and normally didn't work together. They saw the new relationships as a plus, because they could draw from each other's talents and diversity of experience and skills to advance the project. They felt more connected to their work when they got a better sense for what others were doing for the nonprofit, said Matt Schuld, a ProvNext founder.
They thought other employees early in their careers would enjoy opportunities to get to know about the work of colleagues from different disciplines and discover how the parts interconnect across a complex health care system. By fostering informal professional connections, the organizers hoped to make it easier for employees to reach out more frequently across departments. Such relationships continue to allow them to work well with others when there's a problem to solve or a project to tackle, the ProvNext members said.
In 2016, Providence Health & Services combined with St. Joseph Health to form Providence St. Joseph Health. The parent company has more than 110,000 employees. Schuld, currently director of service development and integration for Providence Health & Services in the Oregon region, and still an active ProvNext member, said the networking organization plans in 2018 to seek more ProvNext members and continue expansion into more service areas. They hope ProvNext can help forge relationships between employees from the legacy organizations.
Providence St. Joseph Health employees learn about the jobs of colleagues at a ProvNext “Get the Scoop” event in August. From left to right are Said Sariolghalam, Anna Landa and Carlton Wilson.
ProvNext members have opportunities to gain a better understanding of corporate decision making. A seat is made available at certain executive-level meetings for a ProvNext member; it's not unusual for the attendee's input to be solicited during the discussion, Schuld said.
ProvNext organizes Coffee with a Caregiver pairings, where two employees (called "caregivers" throughout the system) sign up to be paired once a quarter with another employee working in the near vicinity. The two meet to network, usually for about a half hour, and learn about each other's jobs. "It provides an opportunity for people seeking a connection," said Sciarrio. They can meet during the work day, with the support of their manager, on a lunch break or before or after the work day. Managers tend to be supportive of ProvNext gatherings, seeing them as a way to encourage an employee's professional growth and job satisfaction, Schuld said.
ProvNext members sign up together for service work in their communities. About 20 members from Renton and Portland, Ore., also have been participating in their own mission formation cohort.
Typically, as employees progress to more senior roles within Providence St. Joseph Health, they move on from membership in ProvNext, said Sciarrio, though they continue to encourage other employees to take part. Some ProvNext members credit involvement in the group with allowing for professional growth that led to them pursuing promotions within the company, the ProvNext members said.
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