City of Hope to Hire Hundreds for Cancer Center in Irvine

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

Before its massive, four-story Irvine cancer center can open its doors to patients, City of Hope Orange County must first shore up an even more important task: Recruiting about 350 people — many specialized clinicians — to operate the place.

The number includes everyone who will be keeping the outpatient facility running — from “folks that are going to be maintaining our landscaping, all the way up through the technicians in the labs and our diagnostic areas, up to the nurses and the physicians,” said Wendy Austin, senior vice president of operations for the organization’s Orange County branch.

City of Hope leaders have been looking as far as the East Coast to find just the right people for the jobs.

But with recruitment efforts set to ramp up next year, staffing shortages among health care workers nationwide is on the minds of the nonprofit cancer center’s leaders. The pool of potential candidates they hope to pull from is already smaller because of the specialized roles they are looking to fill, City of Hope Orange County President Annette Walker noted.

The 190,000-square-foot outpatient center off Barranca and Alton parkways near Irvine’s Great Park is expected to begin welcoming cancer patients mid-next year. It’s one part of City of Hope’s $1 billion expansion into Orange County, along with an adjacent planned hospital and a cancer facility in Newport Beach that opened last year. Officials have said the goal is to provide better access to cancer treatment for patients living in the area, who until now have had to make the drive to the City of Hope facility in Duarte for care.

The center is beginning to take shape in Irvine, but the majority of hiring still lies ahead. About 280 positions were unfilled as of mid-December, Walker said. Officials have recruited about a third of the physicians they hope to before opening day, Austin said.

“On the director and manager level, we’re really just in the process of recruiting those individuals now,” Austin said. “And as soon as we get them on-boarded, and spending a little bit of time up in Duarte to learn the City of Hope way, then those individuals will start recruiting the people who are the direct care providers.”

In their nationwide search, City of Hope leaders are looking “for the best in their fields,” to outfit Orange County’s new center, Walker said. They want experts who are excited about the opportunity to work for a startup, with ideas on how to build out new systems and workflows from scratch, she said.

Equally as important is finding people who “share our passion and our calling for this work” with empathy and compassion for patients, Austin said.

Treating cancer patients requires a uniquely personal level of care, she said, because of just how long the illness can last. And during treatment, a person’s health can fluctuate significantly.

“It isn’t like regular medical or surgical care. It’s very complex, very interdependent,” Austin said. “We’re, I believe, the only disease I can think of where, unfortunately, our treatments often make the patients sicker before they get better.”

Jessica Patel, who was hired in March as director of diagnostic radiology for the Irvine facility, said in recruiting for several positions on her team, she’s checking to be sure candidates have those technical skills, “but really, the most important thing is that they hold similar values to our team here.”

While she’s hopeful that the organization’s reputation will be appealing to a wide breadth of candidates, Walker is preparing to confront potential recruitment challenges brought on by the staffing shortages in the health care field, a problem likely exacerbated during the pandemic.

In a national survey by researchers at the American Medical Association and a health facility in Minneapolis, about half of the thousands of doctors and healthcare workers polled said they experienced burnout during the pandemic. Another study by the Association of American Medical Colleges this year, which relied on data mostly collected prior to the pandemic, projected that the need for physicians will outpace the supply over the coming years, leading to a physician shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 in the U.S. by 2034.

“The two things that keep me up are supply chain and staffing,” Walker said. “The things you can’t you can’t control.”

Still, Walker said the cancer-focused facility is attractive to oncologists “because it’s the kind of place they can practice their craft and their area of expertise.”

Plus, “Orange County is a very attractive place to live,” she said.

For Patel, who left a position at Children’s Hospital of Orange County to work for City of Hope, the draw to the specialized center was personal to her. When her dad was dying of cancer two years ago, “the one thing that I remember that kept us going was with hope,” she said.

“Throughout his treatment, and all the challenges and seeing him get sicker and sicker, the one thing that kept us going was that hope,” she said. “So if I can bring that to even one family member or one patient, then I really feel like me having gone through that experience is worthwhile.”


City of Hope Orange County is the diamond-level Leaders Circle partner of the Greater Irvine Chamber.

 

Category: Greater Irvine Chamber, Leaders Circle, City of Hope Orange County, Irvine, Jobs