AARP ranks Central Florida Health Alliance as one of 2008's ‘50 Best Employers for Workers Over 50’
George Horsford / Daily SunCarol Browning, left, a histology assistant, Connie Hall, department secretary for critical care and cardiovascular services, and Jan Murphy, a pre-admissions nurse for surgical services, stand outside The Villages Regional Hospital. All three women praise the hospital as a premier organization.

THE VILLAGES — Carol Browning, 67, says she has a dream job and works for the best employer.

Ditto say Jan Murphy, 59, and Connie Hall, 63.

The trio praises The Villages Regional Hospital, part of the Central Florida Health Alliance, as a premier organization where supervisors arrange employees’ work schedules around their activities and allow nurses to work six-hour shifts; which provides health insurance benefits for part-time workers; and for bosses who show appreciation on a daily basis.

“Working at The Villages Regional Hospital is a dream come true for those 50-plus, because you can work part time or full time with benefits, and be involved in the community,” said Browning, a Village of Summerhill resident who works as a histology assistant in the pathology department.

Browning loves her flexible work schedule.

She also enjoys being able to use her bank of PTO (personal time off) days the alliance provides based on employees’ service. Browning earns an average of four weeks off a year.

“I have had the freedom to participate in the Senior Games, Polo Booster Club, Ohio Alumni Club, Relay For Life and other activities, as well as time off for family and visiting friends,” said Browning, who joined friends to play in the recent Nancy Lopez charity golf tournament. “If you want to take off for anything, they always accommodate you.”

Her next fun event will be a November cruise.

Enjoying their work

“I love coming to work,” Browning added. “The people are very nice, and they’ve been very good to me, and they give you every opportunity to improve your skills. I work with three of the finest pathologists. Every day when I leave, they always say, ‘Thank you for helping today,’ or ‘Thank you for a good day,’ and that makes you want to come back.”

“I have nothing but praise and good things to say,” said Hall, of Lady Lake, who serves as department secretary for critical care and cardiovascular services. “I enjoy working with the staff, and all of the directors are very appreciative. I love it here, and I hope that I get to work here until I am 90.”

“It’s a great place to work,” added Murphy, of the Village of Santo Domingo, a pre-admissions nurse for surgical services. “This is absolutely the icing on the cake for my career; and because I live in The Villages, I can play and have fun when I get off of work. There is no reason for me to even think about retiring at this point in my life, even though most of my friends are retired and they give me a hard time about working, but I love to go to work every day.”

AARP ranks Central Florida Health Alliance as No. 12 on its 2008 list of the “50 Best Employers for Workers Over 50.” The local hospital and its sister facility in the alliance, Leesburg Regional Medical Center, have won the AARP honor for the third straight year.

The 50 winners will be announced in the November-December issue of AARP The Magazine. They range from Cornell University (No. 1) to S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. (No. 3), Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (No. 10), L.L. Bean Inc. (No. 20), Wells Fargo and Company (No. 32), and FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (No. 50).

“A diverse group of corporations and not-for-profits are increasingly recognizing the importance of innovative policies as employers seek to retain and recruit experienced workers,” said Bill Novelli, AARP chief executive officer. “Progressive practices lead to more productive workers.”

Lee Huntley, Central Florida Health Alliance president and chief executive officer, believes mature workers are among the local health system’s most viable employees.

“We embrace the experience and knowledge our over-age-50 team members bring to our organization while caring for our patients,” Huntley said. “We consider them one of the secrets to our success.”

Darlene Stone, senior vice president of human resources for the alliance, has found the AARP honor to be an excellent recruiting tool.

“Having been on it for two previous years, we get phone calls from people all over the nation wanting to know, ‘What does it take to get a job here?’” Stone said. “We are honored to be recognized as an employer of choice not only in Central Florida but in the United States. Being a national award, it’s incredibly awesome for us. We’re very proud, and we have our team members to thank, as well.”

Over 50

Stone notes that 52 percent of TVRH’s work force is over the age of 50.

“We have a lot of part-timers, especially at The Villages,” she said. “Their lifestyle is such that they want to enjoy the wonderful activities of The Villages community, but they are not ready to give up working. We like to complement that by showing that you can still have an active career. We have fabulous benefits, so you can continue to work, you can continue to have great health insurance benefits, even on a part-time basis, and that is very attractive to people.”

The benefits

The local health system’s plan coverage surpasses most larger organizations in terms of medical care and pharmacy benefits, Stone said. The organization also has a 401(k) program that matches contributions up to 3 percent; Flex-spending that helps team members with additional health care expenses on a pre-tax basis; and a popular tuition-reimbursement program that allows team members of all ages to attend classes without leaving the hospital grounds.

Stone believes these benefits appeal to current and prospective employees.

“It’s a huge, huge recruitment and retention pool for us as an organization, which is why we focus so heavily on our work environment,” she said. “Our ability to meet their training, benefits and special scheduling needs is unique. We’ve implemented a wide variety of work schedules, including one that features six months of work with us in Florida and six months of work in a home state. It has proven especially popular with mature workers who are not ready to retire and enjoy being snowbirds. We also offer six-hour shifts, which appeal to many team members over 50.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Stone added, “to make your work environment one where people want to be and where they are happy.”

AARP noted for the “50 Best Employers for Workers Over 50” recognition, employers who receive the honor needed to demonstrate policies and practices that meet and address the needs of mature workers. Key areas of consideration include recruiting practices; retention rates; opportunities for training, education and career development; alternative work options such as flexible scheduling and job sharing; and health care and retirement benefits.

During the AARP awards banquet in Chicago, Stone noted other honorees were asking her how Central Florida Health Alliance was able to retain many mature workers.

Six-hour shifts

Stone shared how the six-hour shifts appeal to many nurses.

“If you think about a nurse over the age of 50, it’s very demanding for any nurse to work a 12-hour shift of running the floor the whole day,” she said. “To meet our needs from a staffing perspective, and to be able to accommodate their desires, we decided to offer many shift combinations, but the six-hour shifts seem to work very well. Six plus six equals 12. You can do shifts in a different way than what you’ve always done it, and it’s thinking outside the box that really makes the difference.”

The older work force will be increasingly important in the future, according to AARP. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2016, one in three workers will be 50-plus, up from 28 percent of the work force in 2007.

Theresa Campbell is a senior features writer with the Daily Sun. She can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9260, or theresa.