Mantella, panelists call for expansion of collaborations, partnerships to aid health care worker shortage

five people standing in a row on stage
Pictured from left are Bill Pink, Pam Ries, Jean Nagelkerk, Shana Lewis and President Philomena V. Mantella at a Health Forum of West Michigan event March 6 at the DeVos Center.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski
President Mantella at podium
President Philomena V. Mantella discusses partnerships and collaborations at a Health Forum of West Michigan event.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski
man standing on stage addressing audience
GRCC President Bill Pink addresses the audience at the Health Forum of West Michigan event.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski


President Philomena V. Mantella and other leaders said collaborations and partnership among health care institutions, K-12 schools, colleges and universities are critical to maintaining and expanding the health care workforce in the region.

Mantella joined Bill Pink, president of Grand Rapids Community College, and human resources leaders from Mercy Health Saint Mary's and Spectrum Health as panelists March 6 at the Health Forum of West Michigan event held at the DeVos Center. The monthly series is led by the Office of the Vice Provost of Health.

Mantella said Grand Valley has a rich tradition of establishing innovative community partnerships and delivering on its promise to produce, in this case, graduates to fill health care jobs. She added that expanding those partnerships and offering new opportunities for learners are keys to helping ease a critical shortage of workers in West Michigan and nationally. 

Mercer, a global health care staffing consulting firm, projects the demand for health care workers will outpace supply in five years and estimates the shortage of jobs at 2.3 million by 2025.

"We are expanding opportunities for learners through online degree programs and certificates that will help students scaffold their credentials into different careers," Mantella said.

The expansion of the Health Campus creates more opportunities for program expansion and more space for students to learn, Mantella said. The digital footprint also expanded with the university's online accelerated degree and certificate program. Mantella gave the example of making the hybrid/online RN to BSN program available at all Grand Valley locations.

"Every Grand Valley presence throughout the state is a talent epicenter to connect students with emerging opportunities," she said.

Pink said traditional partnerships need to be transformed to meet the needs of health care employers. He cited GRCC's Summer Learning Academy as an example. Area high school students learn employability skills, complete job shadow programs, visit college campuses and earn a stipend for completing the academy.

Pink said additional funding from the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation has allowed the academy to expand by 100 students this summer.

GRCC's registered medical assistance apprenticeship, a partnership with West Michigan Works, is the first apprenticeship to be accredited in the country, Pink said. 

"The program allows students to start on the (academic) highway and either stay with it or get off the highway to another career," he said. "Most importantly it gives them a success marker."

Shana Lewis, executive director of talent acquisition for Trinity Health, expressed need for more diverse employees for its Mercy Health locations and said the organization has taken steps like creating a career development center with partners West Michigan Works, The Source and others. 

The center, funded in part by a W.K. Kellogg grant, focuses on hiring from the communities it serves and offers services like career coaching and job shadowing. Lewis said it has helped reduce the time to fill positions.

Pam Ries, chief human resources officer for Spectrum Health, said the organization's executive MBA program, a partnership with Grand Valley, has given physicians and other hospital executives needed business acumen. "It's making a difference in our organization; we need people to know the business of health care," she said.

Future positions, Ries said, will be filled by people who are familiar with artificial intelligence, marketing technology, cybersecurity and robotics.