A Match Made in Tacoma
Colonel (Ret.) Andrew Baxter (center), Chief Nursing Officer, St. Joseph Medical Center, spoke at new employee orientation with registered nurses and certified nursing assistants joining the team.
At St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, Colonel (Ret.) Andrew Baxter, RN, FACHE, is feeling right at home. Andrew recently retired from a 30-year nursing career with the U.S. Army. His last assignment was as Chief Nursing Officer at Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The military medical center, 13 miles south of Tacoma, is one of the largest military hospitals on the United States West Coast.
In September, he accepted the position as Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at St. Joseph Medical Center. St. Joseph is part of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, part of CommonSpirit Health in the Pacific Northwest.
Making the Transition
As civilians, we may not realize how different it is to transition from a military nursing career to a civilian nursing career. The truth: Transitioning from the structure of military service to the unknown is a big change for service members.
“I had one employer for 30 years, and it was the U.S. government,” said Andrew. “While health care is the same in the military as it is in the civilian sector, how we organize around it is different. That is where I had concern. There was a new language to learn. There were some cultural differences and the structure was different.”
Enter the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. Time spent during the Fellowship allows transitioning service members to use their best skill — adaptability — to learn a new culture, language and structure in a safe environment.
“Hiring Our Heroes offers our military community a bridge to U.S. employers,” said Rob Comer, Sr. Regional Manager (West), Fellows Programs, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “We create opportunities for service members and spouses of service members to meet civilian employers, gain hands-on experience and make connections. It is gratifying to see our service men and women, who have dedicated their lives to serving our country, explore new opportunities and find meaningful employment.”
CommonSpirit’s First Graduate
Andrew completed the 12-week Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program in July. He is CommonSpirit’s first graduate. The military pays the Fellows’ wages during their Fellowship. It provides CommonSpirit hiring managers a no-cost opportunity to establish a pipeline of highly skilled, transitioning service members into our ministry.
“When I heard that there was this program where I could spend three months getting to learn the civilian sector, I jumped at it,” said Andrew. “I found the team at St. Joseph to be a great fit. I wanted to work for an organization with a strong mission for service.”
CommonSpirit is newly partnering with Hiring Our Heroes. We are piloting the Corporate Fellowship program in the Pacific Northwest and Texas, two areas with a significant military presence where CommonSpirit also has a significant presence.
Our ministry has an ambitious goal to double the percentage of CommonSpirit new hires who are service veterans by FY2026. Service members transitioning out of the military bring unique skills, expertise, a strong sense of duty and service that make them well-qualified for jobs in our health care ministry. We invite more service members to join us to serve in humankindness.