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Professional Development at LifeLong Medical Care

NP Residents

Workforce development is where it’s at right now. – Julia Kelm

At a time when healthcare providers are in short supply nationwide, LifeLong Medical Care is stepping up in a major way to provide training for future practitioners in addition to nurturing its already existing talent.

Julia Kelm’s relatively new role as Director of Health Professions Education & Training (HPET) is pivotal to that goal.

“Workforce development is where it’s at right now. There are unique funding opportunities and so many exciting things happening,” Julia says. “Now it’s our job to rise to the challenge and situate ourselves to get the funding and support the work.”

The breadth and depth of training that LifeLong offers is unusual for a federally qualified health center. In California, two others, Shasta Community Health Center, and Family Health Center of San Diego, are comparable.

Each year LifeLong trains more than 120 learners across the health centers and various sites, which comes to about 12 percent of the entire staff. These are people in patient-facing roles that range from community health workers (CHWs) and dental assistant interns to LifeLong’s in-house Family Nurse Practitioner and Family Medicine residents. About 60 percent of the graduated nurse practitioner residents go on to take positions at LifeLong.

I think the cool thing about being a teaching health center is that it allows for a lot of skill-building of your existing staff – Julia

For some of these educational opportunities Julia is relying on long-standing partnerships with academic institutions, such as UC Berkeley, Touro, San Jose State, Samuel Merritt, University of California San Francisco as well as technical schools and community colleges such as Berkeley City College, Carrington College, Contra Costa College, College of Alameda, and Jewish Vocational Service.

LifeLong has had a six-year partnership with Kaiser Permanente, whose Health Equity & Disparities internal medicine residents provide primary care at East Oakland Health Center throughout their three-year residency. The health center’s East Oakland physicians serve as their preceptors – or teachers. LifeLong providers are also resident preceptors for the LifeLong Family Medicine Residency, the Highland Hospital Internal Medicine Residency, and the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center Family Medicine Residency.

“I think the cool thing about being a teaching health center is that it allows for a lot of skill-building of your existing staff,” Julia says. “It’s not just professional development for the future workforce, but professional development for your current workforce. Working with the learner completely shakes up your day, provides variety, and brings energy. It allows you to see your work from a different perspective.”

Julia says LifeLong also hires the majority of dental assistant externs who are trained. She and Chief Dental Officer Dr. Miriam Parker are exploring creating a dental residency. A second cohort of Howard University dental externs just finished their four-week program under Dr. Parker’s tutelage.

During a recent all-staff call, which for LifeLong is now called Open Mic Monday, one of the first Howard University dental students said her time at LifeLong was “the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Honestly,” extern Clarke Allen said, “it definitely confirmed why I’m doing dentistry. Just being able to see the variety of patients from all different backgrounds. I came in kind of nervous about where I stood with my clinical skills. But all the attendings we had at each LifeLong site were truly amazing. And they made me feel worthy of having the title of doctor.”

Among Julia’s workforce development goals: creating a robust internship to employment pathway for medical assistants, dental assistants, and community health workers (CHWs) “Those positions,” she says, are a big workforce gap.” Another dream is a clinical rotation for a nursing students. She’s also on the hunt for sustainable funding to train and retain master’s level students for family therapy and social work positions.

One other big plan has already been realized: For the first-time next month, two students enrolled in the Berkeley City College community health workers certificate program will begin a year-long mentored internship at LifeLong William Jenkins Health Center.

Learn more about LifeLong Medical Care HERE.