Bridging the Divide
Published Jan. 20, 2023

In the summer of 2017, Akossiwa Sassan came to the North Country from her homeland of Togo, a small country in West Africa, filled with hope.

"In Togo, I heard a lot of people talk about the United States and that there are a lot of opportunities to get a job. So when I came here, I hoped that I would have a chance to help people." - Akossiwa Saasan

Her first opportunity came in the form of a position on the Environmental Services team at UVM Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. As she cleaned rooms, Sassan occasionally had a chance to talk with patients and realized she wanted to help with their care.

She was given that chance through the new Patient Logistics Assistant (PLA) position at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. The hospital created the PLA role last winter to provide support to direct caregivers while improving the patient experience. Simultaneously, the role offers an opportunity for employees to acquire the skills needed to transition from non-clinical positions to those with more patient interaction — and more earning potential.

PLAs distribute meal trays, transport patients and assist with feeding and patient self-care, including helping patients to the restroom. PLAs gain the experiences needed to take a more active role in the patient care team, which then provides an opportunity to become a Clinical Assistant, or CA.

The PLA role was a perfect fit for another employee, Quinn Stebbins, as well. Stebbins had joined the team as a Transport Service Representative three years before, and immediately recognized the opportunity, too.

Quinn Stebbins of UVM Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital is a Patient Logistics Assistant.

While working in Transport— her first step in her health care career— Stebbins appreciated the chance to help bring patients for their tests and procedures, but as time passed, her curiosity ignited a passion for patient care.

“While I liked Transport, it was very much, ‘Hi and bye,’” Stebbins explains. “I wasn’t able to spend much time with the patients. But that’s what I really wanted to do, to really care for them.”

Stebbins admits that she was worried that she would have to leave her job at the hospital to get the necessary experience elsewhere, until she found out about the new Patient Logistics Assistant (PLA) position.

The PLA position provides an opportunity for those not already employed by the hospital to get a foot in the door as well. It’s one of the many ways the hospital and sites across the UVM Health Network are working to open new doors for employees and job seekers to help solve the staffing crises.

Both Sassan and Stebbins smoothly transitioned to become PLAs, and have recently become Clinical Assistants. Neither has plans on stopping their clinical advancements; each has set the goal of becoming a Registered Nurse.

"I think working in a hospital setting before I start nursing school is really going to help me connect the dots. I would say that it’s a great opportunity to learn something new, move forward with your health care career and broaden your horizons." - Quinn Stebbins

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