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Opening the Door to Happy Employees 

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The winner of Best Companies to Work For in 2022 goes to a health care provider that not only cared for the community during the global pandemic, but their employees, too. Congratulations to Open Door Community Health Centers!

The pandemic has caused many of us to rethink the way we earn a living, inspiring many to leave formerly fulfilling jobs. The dedicated people who choose health care as their life's work shoulder a tremendous burden in ordinary circumstances and continue to bear the brunt of a global pandemic. The increased pressure, overtime, and risk to their health and that of their loved ones over the past two years leaves little wonder as to why so many health care workers are changing professions.

But not at Open Door.

Instead of fleeing for less stressful jobs, 104 Open Door employees nominated their workplace as the Best Company to Work For. This designation carries a little more cachet considering how hard it was for anyone to keep their business going, but Open Door also had to protect its frontline employees' health as they took care of ours. No mean feat when they were also charged with vaccinating everyone they could!

Open Door started out in 1971 with one clinic in Arcata. It continues to provide health care for the underserved populations of our county with the unique Humboldt spin of activism, volunteerism and community building. The 12 clinics and Mobile Health Unit/Telehealth & Visiting Specialist Center now serve more than 60,000 people with a dedicated staff of over 600.

Nominations came from 17 percent of employees located in pretty much every clinic. RNs, analysts, med techs, receptionists, doctors and social workers nominated Open Door, a testament to an organizational focus on employee satisfaction, rather than by department or position. It's great to have happy employees but to have them be happy enough to tell others is a job well done!

Any business can give great benefits and perks, as does Open Door, but that alone will not keep employees from looking for what they think might be greener pastures. The trick is to keep your own grass green by nourishing employees' development.

Michael Fling has worked for Open Door since 2004. He left for two years to be closer to family, and when he returned to Humboldt, he walked right back through Open Door's door. Fling ran a lab before taking advantage of Open Door's policy of advancement. He is currently training new staff to use the electronic records system. His satisfaction with Open Door is evident. "I've learned a lot and there is always more to learn, and they encourage that in their employees. They provide a supportive working environment as well as providing room for advancement into many different roles, and they will train you to be successful in that new role."

Office Manager Connie Griffith-O'Neal hated when patients were turned away due to inability to pay at the private clinic in Ferndale. When that clinic failed in 2014, Open Door took over, preserving health care access in the Eel River Valley and keeping 30 staff from losing their jobs. Griffith-O'Neal stayed on, eventually becoming the administrative site director. Open Door understands the true cost of lack of healthcare and Griffith-O'Neal saw it first-hand.

"One of the hardest things I have ever had to do [while working in Private Practice] was turn a patient away because they were unable to pay for their copay at the time of service. Yes, we need to make money to keep the doors open and the lights on, but not at the expense of turning patients away that need medical attention and are unable to pay."

Open Door's mission speaks to Griffith-O'Neal's desire to provide health care for her community, a major part of her job satisfaction. It reads: "Open Door Community Health Centers provides quality medical, dental, and mental health care and health education to all regardless of financial, geographic, or social barriers."

Fling also feels the connection to Open Door's mission. "The staff are all focused on the same goal of providing services to the underserved of the area, making everyone feel like we've helped our community in some way each day."

Any employee who labors to fulfill that mission is dedicated to the people of their community, so it is fitting that Open Door is committed to its staff. Competitive wages and the comprehensive benefits package were cited as big draws, including IRA contributions and perks like mobile phone discounts.

Open Door's employees steward the health care of vulnerable populations. Seeing a great need, the main mission of community care has grown to include five Community Wellness Gardens that provide fresh food for community members. Staff and volunteers tend to broccoli, carrots, garlic and onions. Always mindful of a garden's value in the healing process, beauty is present with blooms of calendula and sunflowers. Staff who have no interest in garden work can still take in a moment of calm amongst the blooms. For some, weed pulling is a great way to relieve stress!

Staff who helped Open Door celebrate 40 years of public service in 2011 were still on hand in 2021 to celebrate its golden 50th. Employees who left felt comfortable to return and are happy to do so. Open Door left a welcome mat on the doorstep for them.

Open Door Community Health Clinics has the right prescription to keep its employees happy. Congratulations to the 2022 Best Company to Work For!

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Meg Wall-Wild

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