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Supporting the Future of our Health Care Workforce

By The PHCD Team   |   December 21, 2015


Like many other communities, Petaluma is battling a healthcare workforce shortage. Whether treating patients in a clinical setting or focusing on prevention efforts out in the community, healthcare workers are great asset - and a great need - here in Southern Sonoma County.

PHCD tackles this on-going demand in a few ways: we've worked with St. Joseph Health to recruit and retain high quality physicians at Petaluma Valley Hospital; We convene a diverse group of local leaders and residents in our CHIPA group to identify strategies to find and retain culturally and linguistically skilled mental health workers, and; as you'll read about below, we get our local youth excited about working in the healthcare field and give them opportunities to gain some real world experience and valuable - local - job connections.

Recently our CHIPA Mental and Behavioral Health Work Group paid for 45 students from Petaluma, Casa Grande, and St. Vincent's High School  to attend My Future is in Healthcare: Mi Futuro es en Cuidado de Salud, a mental and primary health care work force symposium at Santa Rosa Junior College. Students learned about the need for health care practitioners in Sonoma County, particularly in the Latino community, and, as one student described in their post-event survey, learned "a lot about mental health and the different jobs, internships, and shadowing opportunities."

PHCD also engages our younger residents though our CHIPA Youth Member program. This program selects three local young people to serve on our CHIPA Work Groups, and pairs them with Adult Allies to support them as the participate in meetings, share findings from their school and community, and connect with local opportunities to nurture their interest in community health.

Twice a year, PHCD is honored to host nursing student interns from Dominican University of California. These students are smart, hard working, and passionate about improving health. Moreover, while most have an interest in the clinical side of health care, they're also interested in wellness and prevention efforts that occur outside the walls of a hospital. Our interns have the opportunity to merge their medical knowledge with our community health efforts, and in doing, gain a more nuanced understanding of the many ways good health can be achieved. But let's let one of these amazing young people share their thoughts about their time here at PHCD. Below Jillian Renteria, third year nursing student, breast-feeding advocate, and lover of all things Game of Thrones, tells a little bit about what she learned during her four months with the District:

I’m a senior nursing student at Dominican University in San Rafael, California. This semester I had my community health clinical rotation and I was placed at the Petaluma Health Care District. In my previous clinical rotations, I was in hospitals and was providing direct patient care. I knew this clinical would be different, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t know what a health care district does or what I would be expected to do. Interning here at the Petaluma Health Care District really gave me perspective on what goes on behind the scenes. Before this semester, when I thought about community health, my first thoughts were of nurses working at flu shot clinics, doing blood pressure screening, and doing home visits.  Working at the PHCD has broadened my idea of what community health is. The PHCD works hard to help create a more healthy community where residents have local access to comprehensive healthcare and wellness services. PHCD uses community resources and supports programs in the Petaluma area that will help promote the health and wellness of the community.

While working at the PHCD, I also gained a lot of knowledge about CHIPA. For those that have never heard of CHIPA, it stands for Community Health Initiative for the Petaluma Area. CHIPA is a local charter for Health Action, which is a health initiative oriented toward making Sonoma County a healthier place to live and work by 2020. CHIPA has three focuses on three areas that have been identified as community needs. The three areas of focus are Cradle to Career, Mental and Behavioral Health, and Wellness and Prevention. Each area of focus has its own work group, which consists of community members that can help make a change. For this clinical rotation, I wrote a paper that focused on the community need for and importance of quality preschool education. Research has shown that quality early childhood development and education has long-term effects on high-school enrollment, crimes rates, health, early pregnancies, and life expectancy. Early childhood is a sensitive time for brain development and language attainment, so providing children with quality early education has implications for later learning. Early education programs allow children to enter kindergarten ready and able to succeed.

I have enjoyed my time at the Petaluma Health Care District and working here has helped be achieve a better understanding and appreciation for community health work. PHCD works hard to ensure that the Petaluma community has local and quality access to healthcare services. PHCD is working to make Petaluma city a healthier place to live and work. 

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