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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Bridges Admin Skills Gap with Successful Career Ladder Program Catalyst Learning

Situation:  Like many other healthcare organizations, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) faced a skills gap among its administrative staff.  This large group of almost 850 employees includes admin assistants, customer service representatives, program coordinators, schedulers and access service representatives. The requirements and skills necessary to be a successful in an administrative role had changed over the last several years, while the talent and career development for these staff lagged behind.


At the same time, the hospital faced a shortage of external candidates resulting in constant vacancies. Adding to the challenge, on a more global scale in the healthcare industry, was that the title administrative assistant no longer reflected the skills and abilities of the professional, nor did it necessarily match the requirements of individual units within a healthcare system.


CCHMC, recognized not only as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Cincinnati for many years, but as the third in the nation for Pediatric Hospitals by US News and World Report, was facing a talent shortage— one that if not addressed, could have a significant impact on operations, employee engagement and patient satisfaction. CCHMC made a strategic decision to implement a career ladder program to improve employee versatility, and ultimately patient care.


Solution:  In order to assess the career development needs among its administrative staff, CCHMC conducted a Morehead Employee Survey in 2012. The survey found that a significant number of administrative assistants wanted more support with career development and advancement opportunities.


This feedback further supported CCHMC’s overall staffing needs, prompting management to offer a tool and career coaching resource to assist administrative staff with career development and advancement. CCHMC was already successfully partnering with Catalyst Learning on School at Work® and so they decided to integrate CareerCare® to meet the Admin staff’s career management needs.


“Career development within a healthcare setting requires a variety of tools available to fit the unique needs of the various employees including their work schedules, family situations and educational goals,” said Beth Smith, BSN, employment support specialist for CCHMC. “School at Work and CareerCare provide the flexibility and scope to be able to identify the specific needs of the employee and select the appropriate tool which best meet the needs.”


CareerCare quickly became one of CCHMC’s primary tools for career development of its administrative staff, using the program in conjunction with personal career coaching and academic advising.To publicize the new service, management met with the leadership of the Administrative Assistant professional organization (C-CAP) within CCHMC to explain the new career development focus. In turn, that organization invited senior leadership and the career coach to present at their monthly membership meeting to recruit candidates to participate in the self-directed CareerCare project with career coaching.


CareerCare offered an online program to help mid-level employees plan and manage their careers within CCHMC. Employees assessed their interests and developed a career and learning plan that meshed with CCHMC’s overall workforce development needs. From recruiting through implementation, CCHMC took a comprehensive approach to using the program to develop its administrative support staff.

Management continues to value CareerCare’s web-based approach because it provides flexibility for employees with different schedules, goals and educational backgrounds. Moreover, CareerCare allows employees to have a structured tool to use at their own pace to assess current skills, explore educational options, realize obstacles to achieving goals, and develop a realistic plan.


Results:  Based on the reviews from the program’s participants, providing career development tools like CareerCare is essential to driving employment engagement. Elizabeth, an Administrative Assistant at CCHMC said, “I was able to complete the tool, and I found it very useful to help me identify my goals and then set my SMART goals. I have been successful in achieving a new position (one of my top goals) in Sponsored Programs-Accounting and will begin my new job as a grant accountant.”  


Melinda, also an administrative assistant, voiced her support for the program as well. “I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of CareerCare,” she said. “From my experience, it helps a lot when you are looking for direction in your career and you’re not exactly sure which way you should go.”


Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is the third best children’s hospital in the U.S., according to Parents magazine. CCHMC was also inducted into the Cincinnati Business Courier’s “Best Places to Work Hall of Fame” after making the annual list for several consecutive years.


Supporting Research:

  • The skills gap problem at CCHMC echoed findings from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, Schramm 2005): “skills development across a working lifespan and the concept of lifelong learning are growing in importance.” 
  • According to O*Net Summary Report for Medical Secretaries: the tasks, work activities, tools and technology, and skills covered a wide range of skills and abilities.
  • Results from the Society for Human Resource Management “2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement” survey indicated that job specific training, professional development and career development opportunities all ranked in the “important” category or higher.
  • Research conducted by Catalyst Learning Company also has found that training and development and promotional opportunity are driving indicators of employee engagement.

For more information on CareerCare, please email Brittany Gearhart at or visit the CareerCare product page.

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