Carving a Career Path

"They wanted to see me get farther in with my education and utilize me more."

01-13-2015 · Income


Atlanta CareerRise (managed by United Way of Greater Atlanta), CobbWorks and Wellstar are giving employees the confidence and tools they need to succeed.

Johnnie Ford is a life-long caregiver. Having spent years by the bedside of an ailing grandmother, she developed a passion for helping others from a young age that propelled her to pursue a career in healthcare. “I grew to love and to care about people and have compassion for them. I just really love my geriatric patients because people sometimes don’t take the time with them that they really need, that extra TLC. I like taking care of people and the healing process.” A longtime member of the WellStar family, Johnnie has served in her current position as nursing assistant/clinical care practitioner and done secretarial work for the hospital system’s Kennestone branch since moving to Georgia from her native Memphis in 1994. Of her time with the hospital Johnnie says, “I’ve seen a lot of changes at WellStar, all the growth, all of the positivity to help a person advance.”

This commitment to advancing their own is at the core of the hospital’s School at Work ® (SAW) program which allows for incumbent workers to participate in career development programs for several hours per week while on the job, in order to pipeline them into local degree and certificate programs. It had been some time since Johnnie had been in a classroom atmosphere— she earned a diploma degree in cosmetology in 1998— and she was eager for the refresher. “What appealed to me about the SAW program was I’d been out of school for a while and I was excited to go back,” said Ford. “I realized there were some things I just totally had forgotten. As they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

SAW’s pillars focus on both hard and soft skills that workers may have lost through years out of school. “It helped with patient safety and my communications skills within the workplace. And it gave me more confidence and motivation. It was flexible, it was convenient; my job was offering it.” It is this flexibility and care that WellStar demonstrates as an employer that retains long-time employees such as Johhnie. “They wanted to see me get farther in with my education and utilize me more.”

Through the six-month SAW program Johnnie not only reinforced her proven skills, but gained the confidence to seek higher education— she is currently enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College and pursuing a nursing degree. “You will surprise yourself with how much you still know, but just needed someone else to tap into and bring out for you,” says Johnnie. “You can do it. You can go back to school and you can move to the top and be an asset to WellStar. And that’s what they want you to be. Who could ask for anything more? It’s a win-win situation.”