Project Description

Accreditation Journey Strengthens Workforce Development Efforts at Knox County Health Department

By Carrie Thomas, MPH

Knox County Health Department’s accreditation journey has been instrumental in helping to strengthen one of our biggest assets, our workforce. When we began preparing for the accreditation process, we assessed ourselves against the PHAB Standards and Measures. While staff development efforts occurred on various levels of the organization, a system-wide approach was lacking. As a result, a staff development manager position was developed in 2011. This led to KCHD’s first comprehensive workforce development plan based on the guidance of PHAB’s Standards and Measures. This included KCHD’s first formal core competency assessment which was used to identify gaps and develop strategies to address them. Since the initial assessment, we have refined our process and continue to assess core competencies among staff. In addition to assessment, our workforce development plan includes a comprehensive training program. KCHD leadership has promoted workforce development as a priority and sets aside time for staff training each month. A monthly in-service for all 250+ staff members has been highly effective in educating and preparing our staff as well as improving employee morale. Topics for staff training come from a variety of sources, based on accreditation standards. We utilize this time to address key organizational priorities such as strategic planning, QI and the Community Health Improvement Plan.  Additionally, trainings address core competency gaps which in recent years have included cultural competency and policy development. Seven years into our workforce development program and two years following our accreditation, our efforts continue to evolve and improve.

As part of continuous quality improvement and in an effort to look ahead to PHAB’s revised Standards and Measures, KCHD now asks all employees to complete Individual Development Plans (IDPs). The plans require each employee to write 1-2 professional development goals per year. It also collects valuable data on what KCHD can do to support the achievement of these goals and contributes to the yearly work plan for KCHD’s workforce development program. These plans also require progress reports at 6 months. This ensures a continuous conversation about goals and objectives as well as an opportunity to provide additional assistance or resources as needed. After an initial pilot, a CQI project was initiated to improve and streamline the process. As a result, an electronic system was developed for the submission of IDPs which reduces staff and supervisor time and has greatly improved accessibility and ease of use.

KCHD is proud of our workforce development efforts that ensure a competent public health workforce and allows us to provide the best service possible to our community. Our success starts with our employees and the process of accreditation has encouraged and guided us to make lasting improvements.

Knox County Health Department in Knoxville, Tennessee, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on November 10, 2015.

About the author: Carrie Thomas, MPH, serves as assistant director of organizational planning and development at Knox County Health Department in Knoxville, Tennessee. Contact here at [email protected]

⇒ Other major benefits gained as a result of going through the accreditation process:

  • Improved alignment of Strategic Plan, QI Plan, and Community Health Improvement Plan
  • Improved documentation of efforts
  • Increased emphasis on Health Equity and Cultural Competency
  • Evaluating and strengthening partnerships
  • Teamwork – involvement in the accreditation process from staff at all levels of organization