Human Resources: Making the Impossible Possible
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted business as usual for every Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP) department, and the human resources (HR) team was no exception. Everyone at JHCP had to adjust their strategic goals, department priorities and daily tasks, and the JHCP HR team pivoted and lent their assistance in a powerful way.
In response to the concern that Baltimore hospitals would surpass maximum capacity, Johns Hopkins Medicine, in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System and at the request of the state of Maryland, agreed to open and operate a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center. The field hospital provides services for recovering COVID-19 patients before they can be discharged, freeing up valuable hospital space for the most serious cases. On March 30, 2020, Johns Hopkins Health System human resources leadership tasked Leslie Rohde, JHCP senior director of human resources, and the JHCP HR team with the recruitment and hiring of providers to staff the field hospital just four short weeks before the 250-bed facility was slated to open on April 27.
The pressure was on, and the JHCP HR team came through, screening more than 300 applicants and hiring more than 100 providers in rapid succession to meet the late April deadline. The team members made it look easy, but it was no simple task — the tight turnaround time meant they could not use typical hiring processes and systems. “It typically takes months to recruit and onboard providers,” says Rohde. “We had to create all new systems and processes, which was very time consuming and labor intensive.” Adds Beth Wilson, HR manager, the process had to be completely streamlined for quick and efficient onboarding.
The team’s first step was to create a hiring database via OneDrive, which could be accessed by all onboarding stakeholders including HR, JHCP credentialing, field hospital medical leadership and occupational health. They could update the steps in the process for each candidate in real time. They also used DocuSign, through which they sent preemployment paperwork — for example, I-9 forms and criminal background check authorizations — and created unique emergency employment contracts. Allowing candidates to review, sign and send their paperwork back electronically was essential to streamlining the process. Another major workflow change resulted from the creation of a new email address specifically for field hospital applicants.
These process changes may seem straightforward, but the manual intervention and onboarding coordination of 100 providers required the entire team’s unwavering dedication. “It’s really important to highlight that Eileen Walters and Alisha McGowan volunteered to interview all of the candidates that came through,” notes Rohde. “They were basically working seven days a week, screening candidates and forwarding them to the field hospital medical leadership for further consideration.” Walters, physician recruiter, and McGowan, talent acquisition specialist, screened each candidate who submitted their curriculum vitae to the field hospital. Those who met the needs of the position were added to the hiring database and interviewed by field hospital medical leadership, who made hiring decisions. Once all onboarding steps for a provider were checked off in the database, the provider was scheduled for orientation.
This entire operation would not have been possible without the support of many teams across multiple Johns Hopkins Medicine member organizations. “There was a lot of communication and cooperation from JHCP and non-JHCP departments,” notes Wilson. Rohde says the project’s impact on the HR team specifically was tremendous. “It was truly remarkable for the HR team to be really intimately engaged in what felt like the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” she says. “We are not the providers, nurses or staff that are risking their health to work directly with patients, but for us in HR, it was an impactful way to contribute to the COVID-19 response, and to support Johns Hopkins Medicine and our community.”
“Going from recruiting 25 physicians each year to 100 in a month? That’s mission impossible,” Rohde says. But she notes that from the very beginning, failing to meet the Johns Hopkins Health System’s request was not an option, which makes it fair to say: The JHCP HR team makes the impossible possible.