Rochester, N.Y. ­—An innovative workforce development program pioneered by St. John’s has been awarded a grant to help expand even further in 2017. St. John’s will receive $100,000 from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council to put toward training existing employees in new methods aimed at improving care and quality of life for residents of St. John’s.

The funding will cover the cost of training a portion of the 610 employees who will be trained in 2017 as part of a shift at St. John’s Home to embrace the small homes model of care. This concept rejects traditional institutional care by creating living spaces that more closely reflect the idea of home and maximizing the level of choice each person has to live their life their way. An integral part of that shift rests with the day-to-day care team that this grant will support.

Shahbaz Ann Underwood chats with a resident.

“This grant serves as recognition of the incredible work our team is doing at St. John’s Home in changing the way we think about long-term care,” St. John’s CEO Charlie Runyon said. “We’re empowering our staff in ways we never have before. The result is staff members who are confident in their ability to make decisions and residents who are comfortable with the same familiar faces caring for them each day.”

The small homes model is predicated on the use of shahbazim, who are universal workers rather than nurses or CNAs limited by a narrowly defined job description. Shahbazim not only provide medical care, but also prepare meals, shop, clean and create meaningful moments throughout the daily lives of residents through genuine engagement. The model has produced positive results through the organization’s Penfield Green House Homes, in terms of hiring, staff retention and resident care.

Penfield Green House Homes

“Our proposal focused on accelerating job creation and strengthening our region’s quality of life through the shahbazim role,” St. John’s Corporate Strategy Officer Joanne Braeunle said. “We expect that the shahbazim role will emerge as a middle-skills job class and create more opportunities for our community employee base as we continue to invest direct care dollars to ensure a living wage reflective of the responsibility that the role carries.”

Additionally, the organization supports tuition reimbursement and encourages trainees in the shahbazim program to consider a more traditional academic path by providing them with work experience that will differentiate them upon completion of their schooling for more competent roles and other discipline-specific middle-skilled jobs. The shahbazim program results in a more marketable and skilled employee who can also pursue internal and external career paths in related service fields.

Click here to read more about the grant featured in the Rochester Business Journal Daily Report.