Spokane Journal of Business

MultiCare to grow COPE Health Scholars here

Student participation expected to double

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-LeAnn Bjerken
Elizabeth Dubois and Randy Briggs, both of COPE Health Solutions, are mentoring students like Jessica Lubisich, center, in a scholars’ program.

This fall will mark the second year that MultiCare Health System has offered COPE Health Scholars, a program that provides high school and college students hands-on learning in clinical and administrative settings, at two of its Spokane-area locations: MultiCare Deaconess Hospital and MultiCare Valley Hospital.

COPE Health Scholars is a division of Los Angeles-based national consulting firm COPE Health Solutions, formerly Community Outreach Prevention & Education. 

The COPE Health Scholars program currently has 50 Spokane-area students participating, and that number is expected to double by fall, says Los Angeles-based Elizabeth Dubois, who has a doctorate in nursing and is vice president of operations for COPE Health Solutions. 

 “As more students from various schools and backgrounds get involved, we’re expecting interest to grow,” she says. “Word of mouth is a huge thing, so once we get a large enough cohort, it will make a difference.”

Dubois says MultiCare is one of 21 health care systems throughout the country to offer the COPE Health Scholars program, which she says is a partnership with the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine’s health policy management program.

“UCLA’s academic experts help put together and review all of our program materials, evaluate student hours completed, and offer a certification of completion to students at the program’s end,” she says. “It’s a real benefit to these volunteers to have such a well-known school partnering with us on these efforts.”

DuBois says COPE Health Solutions had previously worked with health care administrators, including Deaconess Hospital’s president Laureen Driscoll and Heather Coleman, chief nurse executive at Deaconess. She says  they encouraged COPE to start offering the program in Spokane through MultiCare. 

Dubois describes COPE Health Scholars as an educational, experiential program for people who are interested in health care to get hands-on experience and assistance with professional development.

“We work with health care systems to bring in scholars from within the community, to volunteer at their facilities and learn from their staff with the hope that they will gain valuable job experience they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” she says.

Dubois says the program currently works with four departments at MultiCare, two each at the Deaconess and Valley hospitals.

She says the program eventually will expand, adding new departments based on a combination of student demand, staff feedback, and leadership input.

“Students really like to explore working in new and different areas, and we hope to begin working with new departments in the next couple of months.”

Dubois says the program is marketed to students at Inland Northwest colleges and universities, to high school juniors and seniors, and to job seekers.

“Most people who apply are students interested in medical school,” she says. “However, as they learn more about the hospital setting, we do see students whose interests change as they discover new roles that might also match their strengths and goals.”

The program can help set students up for success prior to any larger investment of time or significant dollars, she adds.

“Connecting students with hospitals gives them experience and insight into various roles as well as experience interacting with patients,” Dubois says. “We also help with things like resumes, applications, public speaking, interviewing, and other professional skills.”

Randy Briggs is a program manager for COPE Health Solutions and currently oversees the the COPE Health Scholar programs in Spokane.

“In addition to the benefits for students, this program has the potential to be a kind of home-grown workforce development opportunity, and recruitment tool for MultiCare,” says Briggs.

Dubois says COPE scholars start by applying to the program and attending an interview. If they’re accepted, they must then undergo 30 hours of training followed by a competency exam before they’re deployed to work with staff in the hospital setting.

“COPE scholars are all closely supervised, starting out in less acute areas and rotating to other departments as they build experience and confidence,” she says. “Many haven’t ever spoken to a patient before, so it’s really valuable to be able to give them that practice interaction at the forefront of their career.”

Dubois and Briggs say the length of time a student needs to complete the program is based on student ability and scheduling needs. 

“The length of time to complete the program depends on how much time the student is able to devote to it,” she says. “We have a summer intensive program that’s eight weeks long, but students can stay on as long as 15 months.”

Students must provide a minimum of 280 volunteer hours to complete the program, but Briggs says many continue to volunteer after they’ve fulfilled those requirements.

“As long as the student is still getting value from their experience in the program, we won’t kick them out,” he says. “We have had students stick around for three or four years. Many of them use the program to complete their prerequisites for nursing or medical school applications.”

Jessica Lubisich is a biology major at Gonzaga University who is interested in becoming a physician. She says she started the COPE Health Scholars program last October.

“I’m about halfway toward completing my volunteer hours, and my favorite thing so far is working with patients and staff, hearing their stories and perspectives,” Lubisich says. “It’s difficult at first, but over time you become more familiar with the hospital setting and learn how to react in different situations.”

Lubisich says she’s hoping her experience with the program will help her to determine her final career path.

“I’m a pre-med student, and I’m hoping this program will give me some added perspective,” she says. “The longer I’ve been part of the program, the more my interest in health care has grown.”

Lubisich says she’d recommend the program to anyone who is interested in working in health care.

“It’s great for those who are looking to gain experience working with patients, as well as learning hospital procedures and how staff works together,” she says. “It’s also an opportunity to learn leadership and administrative skills.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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