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Celeste Cramer does not have a dull day. There’s no time. She’s got 12,500 employees, six hospitals and more than 80 clinics to track.
“I’m responsible for all aspects of recruitment, retention, employee events and professional development across our system,” says Cramer, CoxHealth’s system director of recruitment and retention. “The labor market is tight for most industries, and health care has experienced this strain for years.”
It’s her job to recruit, retain and reward employees. Jobs vary widely – from physicians to plumbers and housekeepers to attorneys – and there’s no one-size-fits-all to any position, she says.
To deal with the chronic labor shortage, Cramer leads her team in developing short-term recruiting strategies while building a long-term pipeline of qualified candidates.
“We work closely with community partners, local businesses and area schools and colleges to help grow and develop talent locally,” she says. “These efforts have paid off. We received over 60,000 applications and filled over 6,000 positions across the system in 2020. We’ve had record hiring and applications every year since I started at CoxHealth in 2016.”
COVID-19 required an enormous shift.
“Trying to maintain recruitment efforts in health care during a global pandemic required a lot of work and flexibility,” Cramer says. “We converted all orientations, classes and interviews to a virtual platform. We helped 4,000 employees transition to remote work.”
She was involved with creating CoxHealth School Care for employees with young children who weren’t in traditional seated schooling due to COVID-19 and offering a sliding-fee scale. It all happened in 30 days for 300 students.
When CoxHealth canceled elective surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment, hundreds of employees were out of work. CoxHealth redeployed those displaced staff members rather than lay them off, and it was Cramer’s job to make that happen.
“This also included creating positions helping with grounds, entrance screening, painting, mask making and sanitation,” she says. “It was stressful, but I appreciated the one time in my career when I could make up jobs for people who needed work. It was a complete 180 from my normal job, and I felt a great sense of duty to help our workforce stay working.”
Cramer is a consummate professional, says Andrew Hedgpeth, CoxHealth’s vice president of human resources.
“Her response [to COVID] ensured CoxHealth could lead our response to the pandemic for this community,” he says. “Celeste is admirable in the way she unselfishly devotes herself.”
Cramer became charged with assigning the more than 400 employees who wanted to voluntarily diversify their skills in order to help when COVID surges occurred. She dove in, too, working several COVID shifts assisting health care providers in and out of PPE.
“This experience enabled me to see the stress and emotional strain our clinical staff experience 24/7. I already deeply respected our bedside clinicians, but this helped me understand more of their world,” she says.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.