April 8, 2021

Boosting vaccinations and health care careers

At a mass vaccination site in San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente and Futuro Health are fighting COVID-19 while providing training to future health care workers.

Daniel Jing gets a COVID-19 vaccination at the large, temporary vaccination site at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

You might think the goal at the Moscone Center in San Francisco is simply to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to as many eligible people as possible. After all, the large, temporary vaccination site has the capacity to administer up to 10,000 doses per day, as supply allows.

A closer look reveals that something else important is happening there: the much-needed training of the health care workers of tomorrow.

“This mass vaccination site creates opportunity for [health care] students to help out and engage in direct patient care, gaining clinical hours required for licensure, which have been so difficult to obtain during the pandemic. We need to ensure we have the next generation of workers to deliver care,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO of Futuro Health, a nonprofit organization founded by Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, or SEIU-UHW.

Due to the pandemic, hospitals and medical clinics where students would have completed their clinical hours had to cancel student programs, leaving students in a bind. During March and April 2021, Futuro Health is helping to staff the mass vaccination site with local students pursuing health care certificates and degrees. Local college faculty and licensed alumni are onsite to supervise.

Why the training is vital

The United States is facing a shortage of allied health care workers, a group that includes a wide range of clinical, administrative, and support positions, including radiologic technicians, laboratory workers, licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants, care coordinators, and health technologists. By 2030, the over-65 population will grow by an estimated 4 million, increasing the demand for health care in the home and in other venues, requiring more specialized health care workers. California alone needs an estimated 500,000 allied health workers by 2024.

This unique, collaborative endeavor shows how we can provide patients with high-quality care while helping to move students toward fulfilling, in-demand careers.

Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-UHW created Futuro Health to address that shortage. The effort is starting in California, where demand is high.

“Futuro Health has been tracking the clinical bottleneck that preexisted the pandemic, made more acute during the pandemic, and was pleased to be invited by Kaiser Permanente to create a training opportunity out of this historic public health crisis,” said Ton-Quinlivan.

In turn, the students and everyone from Futuro Health are giving back to their community and helping to end the pandemic. 

“The entire Futuro Health team provided exceptional support in helping us accelerate vaccination efforts in the Bay Area,” said Tom Hanenburg, senior vice president of Kaiser Permanente Hospital System Operations. “This unique, collaborative endeavor shows how we can provide patients with high-quality care while helping to move students toward fulfilling, in-demand careers.”

Helping students and preparing a much-needed workforce

The temporary mass vaccination site at the Moscone Center has helped hundreds of thousands of eligible people in the Bay Area get vaccinated as Kaiser Permanente and community-based organizations worked to expand and establish more localized sites. Students participating in the Futuro Health program have been able to work directly with patients and hone their skills in a positive and structured environment.

“This experience has made me feel like I have finally entered the clinical learning environment where I can begin to experience the way multiple disciplines work together to care for the patients,” said Marizelle Ochoa, a student at Unitek College, located in Fremont, California. “Thank you for giving us this great learning opportunity.”

Many of the supervising faculty members and alumni were inspired by the opportunity to help students get required clinical hours while actively helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The opportunity provided for the students at Futuro Health was amazing,” said Julie Withrington, RN, professor of nursing at the College of San Mateo. “Students are really able to experience the true impact of nursing on the community.”