Juanita Guilford

When Juanita Guilford was offered a job as a Patient Care Representative earlier this month, she declined it. After 11 years working in housekeeping at The Christ Hospital, the thought of switching roles made her nervous.

Then Cincinnati Works coach Kristina Johnson showed her how the patient-care role fit her personality and her career goals.

“She didn’t just tell me, she showed me,” Guilford said. “She showed me all the notes from all the times we talked. ‘This is what you’ve been talking about. This is what you said you want.’ She didn’t try to convince me, she just showed me. And that showed me that she was really listening.”

After that conversation with Johnson and a chance to shadow a hospital colleague in the patient-care role, Guilford accepted the position two weeks ago. She starts the new job in mid-February.

It is the culmination of a lifetime of skills honed in different frontline positions, as well as the intentional development of new skills thanks to an innovative program at Christ Hospital called Nourishing Employee Strengths & Talents (NEST) – an investment by hospital leadership to help frontline workers turn their job into a career.

“I never knew I could be this happy, actually happy,” Guilford said with a smile.

At 63 years old, she is preparing to start a job that seems to be designed just for her; she has a savings account for the first time; and she is cooking more often and healthier recipes than ever before. All thanks to people she met and classes she took over the past 9 months through the NEST program.

Christ Hospital previously contracted with Cincinnati Works to have a coach on-site to work with their housekeeping and food-service employees, to help those employees tackle challenges that might otherwise impact their attendance and performance at work and to pursue goals that might otherwise have seemed out of reach. The NEST program expands the coaching service (Johnson is now on-site at Christ twice as often) and added classes on health and nutrition and financial wellness (led by Cincinnati Works financial coach Sharon Carr).

Guilford was chosen to pilot NEST because of the initiative she showed in her housekeeping role. “They wanted people they knew were motivated, the rock stars of the different departments,” Johnson said. “They knew she had that spark.”

Guilford had demonstrated a willingness and ability to engage patients, and she frequently suggested process improvements in the housekeeping role. In previous jobs earlier in her career, she showed a knack for sales and customer service. But she did not think of herself as a professional with career options beyond housekeeping. Johnson helped change her mind through regular conversations.

“She believed in me when I didn’t believe in me,” Guilford said.

Which is precisely why Christ Hospital invested in workforce coaching and the employee-development program.

“There’s a lot of talent in this hospital. There are a lot of people running around here with a lot of skills, but they don’t even know it,” Guilford said. “This program brings that out of you. Everybody involved in it really cares. You could tell it wasn’t just a job to them. They care about us and they care about what they are doing. I loved every bit of it.”