Wahzhazhe Health Center Strives to Recruit and Retain Workers

Laura Brooks

Specialist Laura Brooks works daily to combat healthcare staffing shortage and finds success 

Healthcare worker shortage has become a common phrase as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on our healthcare systems. Healthcare workers are leaving the healthcare field in droves for a variety of reasons, one of which is burnout. According to the National Academy of Medicine, clinicians of all kinds, across all specialties and care settings, are experiencing alarming rates of burnout. Among the most telling of statistics, 35-54% of nurses and physicians as well as 45-60% of medical students and residents experience substantial symptoms of burnout. 

Osage Nation’s Wahzhazhe Health Center (WZZHC) is not immune to these issues and has experienced a high turnover rate in the past two years. In an effort to recruit and retain critical personnel, WZZHC is proactively working to implement and improve recruit and retention efforts. Recruitment and Retention Specialist Laura Brooks is leading this vital work at WZZHC. For Brooks, recruiting and retaining healthcare workers is all about understanding and connection. 

“With 23-plus years of experience in the medical field, I have seen first-hand the effects of burnout on staff,” said Brooks. “Having been on both sides of the staff shortage has fueled the fire within me to get WZZHC up to optimum staffing. Before accepting my current position at WZZHC, I was a medical assistant, screening for providers as well as performing Covid testing. This experience allows me to know the needs of the nursing staff and providers at WZZHC. Our nursing staff has been phenomenal during these trying times and I am looking forward to being fully staffed.” 

Prior to coming on staff at WZZHC in 2020, Brooks spent 21 years at Ascension St. John Jane Phillips in Bartlesville, Okla. Almost twelve of those years were spent in the Emergency Department. While in the ER, Brooks was the Patient Care Tech, Liaison, Physician Scribe, PRN Medical Coder, Department Secretary and Registrar.  She then spent a year doing authorizations for PET scans and Co-Pay collections.  During the last eight years at St. John Jane Phillips, she had the opportunity to expand services in the Outpatient Infusion Unit.  

“When I began there, we had a handful of patients, by the time I stepped away, we had over 400 active patients,” she said. “I implemented the Patient Assistance Program to become a patient advocate for patients that needed assistance to get their monthly infusions for Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, IVIG and multiple other medications.  Due to the duration of employment and the strong need for patient advocacy, there were many providers and patients that I was able to create, build and maintain professional relationships.” 

From 2017 to 2020, in addition to her work at St. John Jane Phillips, Brooks worked in the Trauma Emergency Department at Saint Francis in Tulsa on the weekends as a department secretary.  

As all medical institutions are doing during this time, Brooks works daily to combat healthcare staff shortage and has found success. Recently, WZZHC hired two full-time mid-level providers. For recruitment, Brooks uses a variety of communications platforms to reach potential applicants; such as social media, various job posting sites, and good old-fashioned professional networking. 

“Due to the professional relationships built over the past 20+ years, I have been able to reach out to former co-workers, colleagues, and supervisors to let them know of WZZHC healthcare vacancies,” Brooks explained. “There are a few engagements that I have scheduled for students in residency programs for family practice physicians. I have also reached out to multiple Vo-Tech programs for new grad LPNs.” 

Current job openings at the Wahzhazhe Health Center include RN Case Manager, Licensed Practical Nurse, Psychiatrist, Primary Care Assistant, Medical Lab Assistant, RN Nursing Supervisor and Patient Registration. Individuals interested in finding out more can email Laura Brooks directly at laura.brooks@osagenation-nsn.gov or visit the Osage Nation Job Opportunities web page at www.osagenation-nsn.gov/job-opportunities. WZZHC is located at 715 Grandview Ave. in Pawhuska, Okla.