The Changing Face of Healthcare in Lake County

Representation matters, especially in healthcare. The strongest healthcare systems thrive on ethnographic diversity among practitioners. They should reflect the communities they serve.

“Diversity in healthcare is not just a matter of fairness; it’s about improving outcomes for everyone,” notes Anne King, Director, Community Affairs at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. “When patients see healthcare professionals who look like them and understand their cultural backgrounds, it fosters trust and leads to better health outcomes.”

Systemic inequities can underlie poor health outcomes, which is why widespread access to affordable, high-quality healthcare across Lake County is so important. Equally important is making sure that these healthcare systems can recruit from a robust and diverse talent pipeline.

In the field of nursing, U.S. Census data shows that Black and Latinx nurses, who represent 30% of the population, only account for 17% of the healthcare workforce nationwide. In Lake County, this challenge presents opportunities to engage new recruits and serve the community more effectively.

As a partner in the regional workforce ecosystem, the College of Lake County (CLC) seized the opportunity to proudly became an inaugural member of the Illinois Pipeline for the Advancement of Healthcare Workforce (PATH) initiative. This state-wide grant program aims to create, support, and expand opportunities for individuals, particularly those in historically overlooked areas, to obtain credentials and degrees, enabling them to enter or advance their careers in the healthcare industry.

Listening to feedback from workforce providers and advisory boards, CLC identified short and long-term credentials to cultivate desirable qualifications for future healthcare employees. The PATH initiative strategically aims to increase student diversity in healthcare programs and promote inclusion.

“Through initiatives like PATH, we’re not only addressing the pressing need for a more diverse healthcare workforce but also taking tangible steps toward creating a more equitable healthcare landscape in Lake County,” said CLC Vice President for Educational Affairs Dr. Kristen Jones.

With a commitment from the state of Illinois to enhance healthcare diversity and improve outcomes for underserved communities, the PATH grant embarked on an ambitious journey. In the first year alone, CLC surpassed its goals by recruiting more than 1,000 students across 10 targeted healthcare programs – students that will go on to support Lake County’s vibrant healthcare industry and enjoy rewarding careers.

Since the inception of PATH in 2023, nearly 100 new nurses, 600 new nurse assistants, and over 200 new emergency medical technicians (EMTs) have entered the workforce. A majority of students in eligible healthcare programs identify as an ethnicity other than white.

“The PATH initiative is not just about increasing enrollment numbers; it’s about creating pathways for diverse students to enter and excel in the healthcare field. It’s about breaking barriers and providing opportunities for those who have been underrepresented,” said CLC Dean of Biological and Health Sciences Jeet Saini.

Through initiatives like PATH, CLC is not only addressing the pressing need for a more diverse healthcare workforce but also taking tangible steps to support Lake County’s nationally recognized healthcare systems, both now, and in the future. Learn more about PATH here, and connect with us here to see how we can help your company tap into Lake County talent.