The Dramatic Changes Happening In Healthcare Staffing and Education, with Jence Garza, CEO of Advance Health Education Center
Episode Topic: In this captivating episode of “Skeleton Crew – The Rad Tech Show,” we explore the world of healthcare education for radiology professionals, physicians, sonographers, nurses, etc., and staffing with our esteemed guest, Jence Garza, the CEO of Advanced Health Education Center and former Vice President MEDRelief Staffing. Join us to learn more about the transformative impact of these organizations and their commitment to excellence in healthcare.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Listeners of this episode will gain profound insights into the world of education for radiology professionals, where the core theme of radiation protection runs throughout. Dr. Haynes not only stresses the need for staying updated with the latest technologies and practices in radiology to prevent professional stagnation but also delves into the critical role of research in advancing radiation protection measures within the field for radiology professionals.
About Our Guests: Jence Garza is a well-known personality in healthcare education and staffing. She currently serves as the CEO of Advanced Health Education Center and the former V.P. of MEDRelief Staffing, driving innovation and excellence in the field. She was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award at the Health 2.0 Conference, and her involvement with the Joint Commission’s Healthcare Staffing Advisory Council reflects her deep commitment to industry advancement.
Topics Covered: In this episode, we explore Jence’s inspiring journey and the mission of the Advanced Health Education Center, which is dedicated to providing excellent education for radiology professionals. We learn about strategies for empowering radiologic technologists through comprehensive education and the role of consulting services in healthcare. Discover how these organizations stay at the forefront of medical imaging technology education for radiology professionals and how staffing solutions positively impact healthcare institutions, ultimately enhancing patient care and imaging science education.
Our Guest: Radiologic Technologist to CEO: The Remarkable Journey of Jence Garza
Jence Garza, the CEO of Advanced Health Education Center (AHEC) in Houston, Texas, has dedicated over five years to shaping the future of healthcare through top-tier education for radiology professionals. AHEC, where Jence serves as the CEO, recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, further expanding its commitment to providing continuing education for radiology professionals and others in the healthcare sector. Jence’s leadership has been instrumental in offering a wide range of classes and webinars, ensuring that healthcare professionals, especially those in radiology, stay well-informed and up-to-date in their fields.
Before her present role, Jence Garza held positions of increasing responsibility within the healthcare industry. She spent over two decades as Vice President at MEDRelief Staffing, where she played a crucial role in healthcare staffing services, including radiology professionals. Jence also served as the Director of Ancillary Services at Staff Search LLC, where she initiated Imaging and Respiratory divisions across multiple markets in Texas, directly impacting education for radiology professionals. Her extensive experience in healthcare management is underscored by her 12-year tenure as the CMG – Ancillary Services Manager at Covenant Health System in Lubbock, Texas.
Jence Garza’s academic background includes a Master of Science (MS) in Health/Health Care Administration/Management from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, a Bachelor of Science in Health/Health Care Administration/Management from Texas Tech University, and additional coursework in Healthcare Administration from Wayland Baptist University. Her impressive list of licenses and certifications includes the RT(R)(ARRT) credential, reflecting her expertise in radiologic technology, a key aspect of education for radiology professionals.
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Jence Garza: 22 years of staffing, I’ve seen a lot of things you would be amazed. My advice would just say, be honest. I was terminated and while I disagreed with it, I respect their option to do so or I left without a two-week notice because I felt it was in the best interest of my license instead of fudging it. The other thing that we see on occasion that gets caught every single time is criminal background or ethical violations of a license. So again, honesty is always the best policy.
Jen Callahan: Welcome to the Skeleton Crew. I’m your host, Jen Callahan, a technologist with ten-plus years experience. In each episode, we will explore the fast-paced, ever-changing, and sometimes completely crazy field of radiology. We will speak to technologists from all different modalities about their careers and education. The educators and leaders who are shaping the field today and the business executives whose innovations are paving the future of radiology. This episode is brought to you by xraytech.org. If you’re considering a career in X-ray, visit xraytech.org to explore schools and to get honest information on career paths, salaries, and degree options.
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Skeleton Crew, the Rad Tech Show. I’m your host, Jen Callahan. And today I have with me a special woman. Her name is Jence Garza. She’s joining me from Texas. And she’s made some significant strides in the realm of education and staffing within the healthcare field. So thanks so much for taking the time to be with me here today.
Jence Garza: Thank you for having us.
Jen Callahan: Jence is the CEO of Advanced Healthcare Education Center and then also, for MEDRelief Staffing. So two great things working hand in hand, in the healthcare field, I have to say.
Jence Garza: It is a unique environment. But you’re right, it goes hand in hand. In fact, that’s how our staffing company got started. Was it sprung from people in our classes either looking for a technologist or being a technologist looking for a job and voila? A few years later, here came the staffing company.
Jen Callahan: Jence, before we jump into all of that, give me a little bit of background history of yourself. Like where did you start out from, where you just like in the field, and then you slowly made your way into education and then the staffing as well?
Jence Garza: Yeah, I’ve been a tech for, I hate to say it, 35 years now. I have worked rural health, I’ve worked for a large healthcare system. I spent five years in the cardiac cath lab and then I started off in diagnostic and then went to the cath lab for five years and then went into hospital administration. And I have been in Houston now for 22 years. Just celebrated my anniversary here with the company two weeks ago. So it’s been on both sides from a tech to an administrator to a vendor.
Jen Callahan: Right. At this point, you’re now in the education aspect of it. Are you feeling like you might like this the best so far?
Jence Garza: I loved the cath lab. I loved everything about being in the cath lab except being on call, honestly. But being in administration is where I’ve spent the majority of my career, so it’s probably where the most comfortable all. But right now, this is one of the most exciting times for education, professional development, and some of the stuff that we’ve got going on. Forgive me, I normally don’t dress like this. We are celebrating our 35th birthday here at AHEC. So for the next couple of weeks, we’ve got a lot of internally things planned so we can have some fun just to celebrate. Like I said, it is coming post-COVID and all of the craziness that went on for the last three years. You got to take some time to celebrate. So what we’re doing.
Jen Callahan: So talking about AHEC, you said 35 years in existence. That’s a nice chunk of time there where something that you’re going through with education and then you have been a part of that for how long at this point?
Jence Garza: 22 years as of the end of September.
Jen Callahan: Wow! Did you do that as like an ancillary role? Were you still working in the hospital administration and doing part of the education on the side?
Jence Garza: No, actually, when I started at AHEC, I started on our staffing side. I came over to be the administrator for MEDRelief Staffing, and then I rose and became a vice president and ran that section for probably the first 15 or so years I was here. And it’s only been in the last few, 7 or 8 that while I had some HR responsibilities with the education company, it’s been probably like I said, the last seven or so that I’ve been with both and started teaching about four years ago. I was a little slow to that because I was a little intimidated. But I will tell you, being in the classroom with students, with people from varied backgrounds and different parts of the country is a lot of fun. I really enjoy it.
Jen Callahan: So I mean, I was on your website earlier today just checking out everything and I did see that you offer in-person courses, but then you also to offer it as a live stream webinar, which is great for people like myself, like I’m in the Philadelphia region and of course, I would totally be interested in when it’s great because you have it offered through the webinar. That’s awesome.
Jence Garza: Yeah. Actually, our COO and our president, Peggy Hoosier, and Marilyn Sackett started the webinars I guess around 2015 really when Zoom started well before Covid. And so, we have that platform. It goes hand in hand with kind of what our philosophy is being a corporate-style education company. We try to have offerings for people no matter where they’re at. For example, when I was a new tech, the town I lived in didn’t even have a stoplight, so much less a junior college. Closest junior college was 15 20 miles up the road. The closest four-year college was 100 miles away. So if I wanted to progress in my profession, I would either have to move or it would be very difficult by having the corporate style education and being able to deliver it either via webinar or sending our consultants into a specific location. It allows for people in that sort of environment to have that same quality option and hopefully an impact on their patients in that area.
Jen Callahan: So the webinars that are offered, do you have to be present during it while it’s going on live or is it something that is recorded and then say someone like myself, like I’m in a different time zone, could I go back and view it after the fact?
Jence Garza: Both. It’s one of those things that we do have some on demand and then we have some that are live just like you and I are talking now. And then we have others that are played and then the instructors or a technologist is available to always answer questions. We always have someone available that can answer questions regarding that and it is a content expert.
Jen Callahan: And we were talking a little bit before we started recording about had mentioned like something it’s been on my radar for now, I’m going to say at least four years. And like I keep thinking about taking the plunge, but I just haven’t done it yet. You said was Covid the mass exodus of some staff that your education center is now offering an incentive for coming into possibly a new modality. Do you want to talk about that?
Jence Garza: I would be happy to. And first off, I would encourage anybody who is even interested in doing the MQSA 40-hour training. I myself did it back in January whenever it was time for me to renew my CEE, it was one of those things I hadn’t done honestly, since the early 90s. I knew how much it had changed. I wanted to learn more about it and have that hands-on experience. But there are fewer mammographers out practicing now than there were just a few years ago, and no joint commission and other places have women’s health initiatives. And so mammography should or is at the top of that. We’re very excited about some of the things that we do in mammography, not only the consultations like for facilities with their ACR or just if they want to be proactive in their positioning. But for those that want to do initial training, we were endowed last spring with a scholarship. And so for our October class and our April class, I believe we will offer to applicants two different scholarships that will pay for everything the class, their transportation, their hotel, their food while they’re here in Houston. And if they need their clinical site, we can do that as well. We are one of the fewer ones that offer a clinical site for somebody who needs that, that they can’t go back to their facility, but they want to become a mammographer and need to get their initial 25. We can help with that. This growth scholarship is honestly exciting because the two types of radiographers that we’re looking for, one is a more seasoned that is looking for a change of pace and a way to upskill their profession. And the other one is for someone who is newer into the profession and is wanting to make a difference.
Jen Callahan: That’s great. What’s the criteria then? I mean, I know that there are the two different colleges that you will be working for, but is there a certain criteria that an applicant would have to meet to qualify for it?
Jence Garza: Yes! There is a application process. They have to write an essay about the whos and the whats and the whys and submit their resume and a couple of other documents. And then we have a wonderful board that is reviewing the applications for us and making the recommendations as to who should be awarded your basic professional stuff.
Jen Callahan: That’s great. And then a roundabout, I mean, if you hate to get into like numbers, but what’s the tuition look like in terms of doing a course like this?
Jence Garza: It depends. It can be anywhere from around $1,000 to depending on where you’re coming from and how long you need to stay. It could be 2 or 3000. That doesn’t include airfare because we all know airfare changes almost on a daily basis.
Jen Callahan: I mean, that’s a huge incentive, especially for someone who has possibly been thinking about doing it, but maybe hasn’t taken the leap because of the financial aspect Some institutions do offer payback for your education, but you have to pay for it upfront and then submit it for reimbursement. So, I mean, this is.
Jence Garza: Or commit a couple of years of your life for that.
Jen Callahan: So you do the mammo and QSA, what other modalities does AHEC have that they offer?
Jence Garza: We span the spectrum with imaging. We are owned and run by radiographers and always have been. So we span the spectrum. We have the structured education for the CT and the MRI for those who are wanting to take their advanced registry and need that structured education approved structured education to be able to sit that registry. We have the DEXA or bone density initial training which meets those qualifications. The instructor there is renowned he’s actually the bone densitometrist for NASA. So we’ve got some amazing instructors that are from throughout the country. The 40-hour initial training in mammography. Our CE catalog covers it all from nuclear cardiology to soft topics. Other reason that I have always enjoyed the webinars is because there. Are different topics and because of the times that they play. I don’t have to worry about rushing home from work or spending an entire Saturday. I can do it in little bitty pieces 3 or 4 hours at a time or if I’m getting close, I can knock it out, knock 6 or 8 hours out on a Saturday or a Sunday. The other thing that I think we do is really cool is with our ultrasound classes, we have live models. So the morning portion is the didactic, and then you go into our scan lab and actually scan with what you just learned.
Jen Callahan: So do you currently practice as a mammographer?
Jence Garza: Not since our class, but yes, I’m looking forward to doing so. I was amazed how much I learned in the class. How passionate most of those technologists really are in their patients and what they’re doing and it was just such a wonderful experience.
Jen Callahan: So let’s transition then. So we have a hack. And then but also to you said that hand in hand goes with the med relief staffing. Talk to me a little bit about that. Do you offer it to students who are there? Hey, we have this other portion that you’d be looking for a position. We can help you do that.
Jence Garza: There is information that is available here. Most of our clients do require one-year experience post-graduation. It depends on where they’re at and what they’re looking for in their career. But we started off in the early 90s, started off here in the city of Houston regionally, like I said, and came up in class, hey, I’m looking for a sonographer, I’m looking for a diagnostic tech for the weekends, or I only want to work weekends. So it sprung from that and then went regionally and next thing we know, we were doing the state. By 1999 we were staffing the entire country and have been doing so ever since. We were one of the first in Texas to attain the Joint Commission certification when it came around in 2006. I think it goes hand in hand with the same philosophy as our education company is wanting to be a step apart and to keep that patient care and patient focus is part and parcel.
Jen Callahan: What’s the length of contract that you usually stand for? Is it like shorter or sometimes longer or just really depends? I region to region of facility or facility?
Jence Garza: It does. Here in the city of Houston, we do a ton of per diem. So just daily assignments or short-term assignments, a couple of weeks. We’re a little different from other travel companies in the fact that we will do shorter term. So they may cover an FMLA, it may cover just somebody who’s going on vacation for a week or two. Industry standard is either 8 or 13 weeks. And then we have some that have stayed on travel assignments for close to a year, gone away for a 13 or so weeks, and wanted to go back. So we’ve had all of it. It just depends on the facility need and the travelers’ mindset.
Jen Callahan: Do you find that the areas that you’re staffing for are where they’re located within, say, the state or the country? Are they the more remote areas where they’re having a hard time obviously finding staff and hiring people? Or is it still in, say, a very urban area with a huge health system?
Jence Garza: Staffing is so fluid that today I could tell you that in the urban area, it is what it is and tomorrow it would be rural. I think overall, we’re seeing a little more on the rural side that are searching for staff or have staff that is moving to different areas or did move to different areas post-COVID. But being in the fourth largest city in the US, for US and the per diem market, it’s a little bit of both.
Jen Callahan: Where do you find your staff or are you people recruiters going through like looking through LinkedIn or do you take occupations?
Jence Garza: Absolutely, all of the above. We do a ton of referrals. We have on our imaging side, especially in our per diem pool. And a couple of our nurses have been with us for 20 years. So we’ve got people who have done both local here in the city and then gone out and done travel assignments or they are travelers and they travel with us for 2 or 3 assignments. We’ll go take one with somebody else and then come back. But how we find them is pretty standard. We’re, you know, all your social media, we get a ton of referrals. We, of course, advertise and then plus the LinkedIn.
Jen Callahan: Let’s transition from talking about your two companies to talking about yourself. You received a recent accolade from the Health 2.0 conference.
Jence Garza: Thank you.
Jen Callahan: That sounds really exciting.
Jence Garza: It’s always nice to be recognized, but I don’t think any leader can receive an award without having just a great team. It’s really the entire team’s award that just got to be the one that gets to pick it up. But when you have a great group in place and we’re very lucky here, we’ve got one gentleman who’s been here for 31 years, couple that have been here for 26, myself and our senior vice president have been here for 22. Most of our staffing people have been here 8 or 9 years. So having that cohesiveness and that synergy and that maturity makes things like that possible.
Jen Callahan: Yeah, team always works together, and someone who’s usually recognized from that team. But like you said, if it’s not with everybody working together, usually you don’t have that aspect. So what is exactly the Health 2.0 conference? It’s really interesting. I mean, is it mainly obviously for healthcare, but does it focus on a specific area or is it just the broad?
Jence Garza: It was the first time I had been there. And they. Have several different areas. They had it for education and some other stuff. They have different forums and classes and stuff. And so I went to things in marketing or it was just a well-rounded, different industries. I just happened to get the award and be there for the healthcare portion. It was interesting.
Jen Callahan: So Jen said you also to have another portion that you were acknowledged for. So you’re part of the Joint Commission’s Health Care Staffing Council facilitator for that. So that sounds like a very important position. You give us a little background on what that exactly is.
Jence Garza: Sure. If you don’t know, there are different certificates or accreditations that the joint commission offers for different industries. For example, Home Health Laboratory, one of them that they started several years ago, we obtained our certification in 2006, is for healthcare staffing. And then about ten years later, they asked for volunteers from the industry to help them. And the council comes together 2 or 3, four times a year depending. And we discuss different things that are affecting the staffing industry and how these trends may be going upward or declining, things that hopefully would make a difference. The Joint Commission listens to our information and does some additional research and surveys, and their goal, I believe, is to help use this to help improve or impact patient care.
Jen Callahan: The accreditation for these things, what does it look like? It goes through the process of that. Is it something you have to go through?
Jence Garza: It just like any other accreditation, whether it’s for your department or joint commission for the hospital, it can be a little nerve-wracking. We’ve been very lucky that we’ve never had anything that we had to go back and correct, but it’s very similar. You get the phone call that morning. Now there’s a window that you know approximately when your survey is going to be. We’ve had them here in our office. We’ve done our last two virtually. So it is an evolving sort of thing. But they look at everything just like they do the hospitals. And it’s the same sort of indicators leadership, human resources, process improvement. One of the things that has helped us is the emergency preparedness because from that we’ve improved some of the things that we do and how we do, and where we store our information. Because of that emergency preparedness plan, it impacts your quality just like it does in the hospital or outpatient imaging center.
Jen Callahan: That’s really interesting. I mean, I honestly wouldn’t have thought that there would be something like that for staffing. It just blows my mind. I mean, obviously, for the healthcare setting, you’re dealing with patients on the day to day basis. But I guess it makes sense in terms of the people that you’re bringing on to staff these facilities. So there has to be some type of rules and regulations for the companies that are doing the staffing.
Jence Garza: Well, I wish more were just simply because of that because at least our values and what we’re trying to do is in alignment with what the healthcare system is also trying to accomplish, whether it be background checks or a ten-panel drug test. Not just that they go on to a website and go, oh, here, Sallie Mae, blah, blah, is the verifying the license, verifying the skills that a resume actually is authentic. Hopefully, it goes hand in hand with what your facilities or the facility is also trying to accomplish off the cuff question.
Jen Callahan: Have you ever had applicants who have fudged their credentials?
Jence Garza: Oh girl, 22 years of staffing. I’ve seen a lot of things. In fact, the very first class I put together was on resumes to teach. Yes, because you would be amazed that old saying of honesty is always the best policy. It will keep you out of trouble professionally.
Jen Callahan: Do you ever find that people lie about previous employers?
Jence Garza: All the time, whether they were released or not? It is. My advice would just say, be honest, I was terminated and while I disagreed with it, I respect their option to do so. Or I left without a two-week notice because I felt it was in the best interest of my license instead of fudging it honestly. The other thing that we see on occasion that gets caught every single time is criminal background or ethical violations of a license. So again, honesty is always the best policy.
Jen Callahan: So going from that, let’s talk about the future. Where do you think that we’re heading for the future in terms of our education and the staffing? Is staffing on the uprise or are we still bottoming out somewhere down here?
Jence Garza: This is not the first time we’ve seen this cycle in staffing. I think staffing will continue to rise honestly because think about it, how much busier are emergency departments and outpatient facilities these days? And with the technology, you can put more patients through, especially CT. How much faster is CT now than it was ten years ago? So as technology advances, there will be more need for a technologist. But the future? Oh my goodness, this is probably got to be one of the most exciting times to be a technologist or to be in that field. All of the new things that have popped up in the last little bit now you’ve got upgrades in and the photon therapies and all of those. But what is going to look like in five years? Nobody talked about it five years ago. What is it going to look like in the next five years? There are new machines specifically for breast health. You’ve got improvements in software across the board in every industry. Go look at some of the ultrasound images these days. Some of them are stunning and don’t do ultrasound, but think they’re pretty. As much as software has advanced in the last 10 years or 15 years. We’ll see that still swing here in the future. I don’t want to get too much into it, but there’s some interesting concepts that are being introduced, For example, remote scanning with different technologists being in one location and having tech assistants people think will have very strong opinions on it. But could it end up being something great for patients in a rural area because of the advancements in telehealth and other things? I don’t know. It’ll be exciting to watch it and see.
Jen Callahan: Well, Jence, thank you so much for your insight into education and staffing. Definitely enlightening for myself. I mean, and just to see that it’s not even staffing isn’t even just affecting one certain area within the country. Basically, the whole country is being affected at this point. And we’re still recovering and coming out of where we were in 2020 going forward.
Jence Garza: No, I agree. Thank you so much for inviting me to participate. This was a lot of fun.
Jen Callahan: Great. All right, guys, this is James Garza, the CEO of Advanced Health Education Center. We’ll make sure that we put a link below so that if you’re interested in doing any continuing education or checking out another modality that check out their site to see what is available to you. If you’re listening to this and you’re looking for a position to possibly travel or just in this area, I mean, lots of staffing companies out there, but MEDRelief seems amazing with how they go hand in hand with AHEC.
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