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Supervisors Stepping Up: Supporting the Learning of Frontline Workers in Health Care

Charles Goldberg and Randall Wilson

The quality of our nation’s health care depends on the quality of our frontline workers. Those who are well compensated, well supervised, and well trained stay in their jobs longer and perform better. Similarly, better care results when frontline workers have ongoing opportunities to learn new skills and advance along clearly defined career paths. But providing such opportunities requires a strong commitment from the employer, beyond investing in individual workers and their training. It takes the efforts of the entire organization to raise the quality of the frontline workforce. Support for workers to participate in ongoing professional development must come not only from senior executives but also from direct supervisors.

This practice brief examines the diverse roles that supervisors play in the professional development of their employees, and how differences in these roles can affect program implementation and success. It also demonstrates how Jobs to Careers projects have adapted these roles and functions to a wide variety of health care settings, differing in location, scale, complexity, type of care, financing, and organizational structure. The choices that these employers and their educational partners make offer lessons for the development of new programs to train and advance workers through work-based learning—a cornerstone of Jobs to Careers, a national initiative that is developing the skills and career paths of workers on the front lines of health care.