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Training Department keeps workforce skills sharp


Professional Development and Training Department members Victor Ortiz, Mary Jo Carter-Codling, Amanda Tagliarino and Katie Chodat break down a recent team-building workshop for Citizen Advocates’ Direct Support Professionals.

Employee educators stay current in a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape

As Citizen Advocates’ services have grown in complexity and number of people served, so has the scope of its Professional Development and Training Department, a dynamic unit of five employee educators supporting a workforce of 750-plus from Plattsburgh to Watertown. 

While continuing to provide required trainings for healthcare privacy regulations and basic lifesaving skills, the department has become a knowledge base for the agency and other providers in the region.

“We want to adjust the perception of training,” said Amanda Tagliarino, Citizen Advocates’ Director of Professional Development and Training.  “Too often, training tends to be seen as a burden, something we all must do every once in a while, that takes us away from our important work.  However, training truly is a vital part of professional development: This is an investment in you, the employee.”

From left to right: Mary Jo Carter-Codling, Manager of Professional Development; Katie Chodat, Staff Training Specialist; Victor Ortiz, Staff Training Specialist; Diane Mackey, Staff Training Coordinator; and Amanda Tagliarino, Director of Professional Development and Training.

Part of that investment is to continually add new training modules to the department’s repertoire.  Recent offerings include Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.  Both are courses that Citizen Advocates staff previously had to go elsewhere to receive.  On the horizon for the training team are courses in Mental Health First Aid for Youths and Basic Life Support for Healthcare Professionals. 

“The work we do at Citizen Advocates is complex, so it’s imperative that our employees stay up to date on the latest professional development,” said Krista Bartlett, Citizen Advocates’ Chief Human Resources Officer.  “People who receive our supports are getting the best care, because our employees have the opportunity to participate in the best training.”

Key results

Among the department’s key results and recent successes:

  • The department continues to expand its professional development opportunities with the launch of a monthly “Lunch and Learn” series to leverage the knowledge that exists within the agency’s leadership team. 
  • They have also added educational workshops for Citizen Advocates’ workforce and developed a team-building program, which is being piloted internally before being offered to outside agencies and individuals this fall. 
  • The Mental Health First Aid for Adults course is already being offered externally, with professionals participating from as far away as New York City. 
  • As part of this new initiative, the training team is in the early stages of planning an expansion of its space on Citizen Advocates’ Creighton Road campus in Malone that will allow the department to offer multiple trainings concurrently and become a regional training center.

“Offering training outside our agency supports our regional community and helps us thrive together,” Ms. Tagliarino said.  “This helps us further develop our department and training.  We are continually refining the quality of our training programs, fine-tuning our content and delivery each time we conduct a training, which ultimately benefits our workforce.”

Additionally, the training department has taken the lead on Citizen Advocates’ culture journey, conducting culture workshops with almost 97 percent of the agency’s workforce and incorporating culture training into new employee orientation.  Recently, they began offering culture refreshers during team meetings, which have been well-received.

Embracing the digital advantage

While many trainings have returned to in-person settings post-pandemic, the department has embraced the digital age. 

  • The training team recently launched a new, more user-friendly online learning management system that allows employees to complete training from their smartphones, if they prefer. 
  • They’ve also recently incorporated tablets into the new employee orientation process, eliminating the need for paper knowledge checks and removing any delay in training records reaching an employee’s training portfolio. 
  • Additionally, there is a supply of laptops on hand for any employee without access to a computer – or a quiet space – to complete a required training.

“We believe preparation positions any employee for success,” Ms. Tagliarino said.  “The goal of our department is to provide our workforce, and others, with the resources to feel confident in their current roles and give them the knowledge to grow personally and professionally.”