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Addressing Critical Concerns of Healthcare Systems Serving American Indians/Alaska Natives

Building the Local Workforce


Edwin L. Hansen, Ph.D., Vice President, Hospital Services, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Bethel, AK.

Vivian Johnson, M.Ed. (Yup'ik), Director, Sub-Regional Clinic Operations, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Bethel, AK.

Jan Hulme-Shepard, Resource Coordinator, Learning Institute at Quorum, Quorum Health Resources, LLC, Brentwood, TN.

Laurinda A. O'Brien (Cup'iq), Director, Corporate Training and Development, Human Resources Management, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Bethel, AK.

Armed with the 638 provisions of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, or YKHC (Bethel, Alaska), set out to implement a new approach increasing Alaska Native employment. The YKHC workforce development model includes:

Building tribal management systems that lead to quality. A key component is finding multiple strategic partners. The Learning Center (described below) was developed by YKHC, a private sector healthcare service delivery organization (Quorum Health Resources, LCC), the local university system (University of Alaska), the local school system (Lower Kuskokwim School District), and statewide special interest groups (Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Alaska Human Resources Investment Council).

The Learning Center at YKHC was designed to develop people already within YKHC and cultivate an interest in health professions among local children and young adults. The Learning Institute at Quorum Health Resources assisted YKHC in the design, delivery, and administration of the Center, customizing Quorum curricula and practices to fit YKHC. It has five components:

  1. Career pathways for school-age children and community members: Includes job shadowing, internships, field trips, and classroom presentations.
  2. Mandatory training for all employees is required by YKHC, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) (which accredits YKHC), and Federal law. It includes corporate orientation, basic safety, Privacy Act, and Indian Child Welfare Act.
  3. Staff development for all employees assesses and builds knowledge and skills to increase performance in their current jobs and enhance opportunities for advancement. It includes basic business skills, customer service, and general equivalency degrees (GEDs).
  4. Management and leadership development for all supervisors and managers increases their abilities to plan, hire, supervise, manage, and lead employees. It includes basic supervision, interviewing and selecting, team building, and leadership skills.
  5. Other classes have been designed for the Board and other YKHC groups to increase their knowledge and skills in specific areas.

The University of Alaska System has two programs:

The Bethel campus, in partnership with YKHC, local tribal councils, and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, developed the Rural Human Services Program. This shares the time of the YKHC Director of Subregional Clinic Operations as an Assistant Professor. The 2-year certificate program totals 30 credits in 12 sessions and a practicum, for a maximum cost of $4,500. Graduating approximately 20 students every 2 years, the program is built on Alaska Native traditional values (including having elders as faculty), validates respective traditions to facilitate the healing of people in communities and acknowledges the strengths and natural talents of village human service providers. It is designed for working adults. Several YKHC employees are students.

Statewide, the Alaska Native and Rural Development Program prepares students for community leadership and includes a concentration in rural health and human services management. Approximately 100 have graduated from this bachelor's degree program.

Schools on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta partner with YKHC to expose children to the idea of choosing positions in healthcare systems:

  • The elementary focus is on Health Care Awareness. It features hospital field trips, health fairs in villages, Junior Achievement, and classroom presentations by YKHC employees.
  • The middle school focus is Exploration of Health Careers. In addition to the activities listed above, it features brown-bag lunches at the health center, elective courses, career assessments, and interest surveys.
  • The high school focus is Health Career Preparation. In addition to the activities listed above, it features mentorships, job shadowing/work experience, health courses for college credit, internships, and scholarship opportunities.

A Statewide Network includes tribal consortiums, boards, and commissions (such as the Alaska State Private Industry Council and the Rural Health Services Program Statewide Council), and the Alaska State Hospital Association. For example, YKHC sponsored a Statewide Workforce Development Summit in 1999; the relationship that developed with the Hospital Association through this project resulted in the Association aiding YKHC in obtaining a $900,000 grant.


Acton K. A critical issue: blood sugar control. Albuquerque (NM): National Indian Council on Aging; 1999.

Erven B. Motivating and retaining employees. Columbus (OH): Ohio State University, Ohio State University Extension; 1999.

Ligget WA, Weise K. Utilizing the YKHC strategy planning and organization process model. Bethel (AK): Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation; 1999.

Wakin E. Finding and keeping staff. New York (NY): Fordham University; 1999 Mar.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Quorum Health Resources, LLC. Establishing a successful health partnership. Bethel (AK), Brentwood (TN): The Corporation and QHR; 1999.

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