First group of Reading Hospital employees completes English as a Second Language classes

A group of Reading Hospital employees completed the Hospital’s first-ever English as a Second Language (ESL) course on Wednesday, June 13.

The free classes, provided in partnership with the Literacy Council of Reading – Berks, took place twice a week for one hour over the course of 12 weeks. Employees were able to attend classes during their shift and received their regularly hourly wage during class time. The first session hosted 21 individuals from the Hospital’s Environmental Services department. The program is made possible by United Way grant funds to The Literacy Council of Reading – Berks, and the curriculum was developed in partnership with the Literacy Council and Reading Area Community College. A second session is scheduled to begin later this summer.

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Learners focused on listening, speaking, reading, writing, study skills, content vocabulary, and cultural orientation. The goal for participants at the end of the 12-week course is to achieve basic conversational skills and to move up to the next level ESL instruction, should they choose to do so.

Charles F. Barbera, MD, Reading Hospital president and CEO shared, “I was honored to present the English as a Second Language Certificates to the first graduating class of students. They are energetic, grateful, and proud to be a part of the team at Reading Hospital. They shared how the classes changed their lives, both within and outside of the hospital. To see the impact these classes had on our team members and colleagues was incredibly moving.”

“I’m really proud of this program,” said Desha Dickson, Tower Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Wellness. “It’s something we wanted to offer for some time, but we needed to find the right community partners to ensure we were offering the best program to our team. We found that strong partnership with the Literacy Council, RACC, and the United Way, and they helped make this possible. Our program was developed specifically with healthcare employees in mind to include some common medical language. During one class participants walked around the hospital to test their knowledge on signage. It was really designed with their everyday life in mind.”

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Pamela Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief People Officer at Tower Health added, “One of Tower Health’s goals is to help all employees advance within the organization. Programs like ESL benefit our employees and strengthen the team. We strive to lift everyone in the community.”

Team members across the organization were excited about this opportunity for their colleagues.

One team member who shared her success story is Paula De La Rosa. Paula began her career at Reading Hospital as an Environmental Services Workers in 2005. At the time, she could read English but not speak it, and that made her job more challenging. “I like to speak with the patient when I’m in their room so I can explain what I’m doing and have a conversation with them,” Paula says.

To improve her English Paula registered for ESL classes at RACC on her own time. She credits her improved English with her career advancement at the hospital. While serving as a housekeeper she got promoted as a team lead, and now is a Supervisor in the Environment Services Department. The success of her ESL classes encouraged Paula to earn her Associates Degree from RACC in Business Administration.

Upon learning that ESL classes would be offered to hospital employees Paula said, “I knew I needed to encourage people to take the class.” She says her team members were excited about the opportunity but also, understandably, nervous. She reminds them they have a team of people to help, and she knows they can do it. “They are working hard to get better. They are learning a lot, getting better, and some are speaking more English at work to practice.”

“We’ve seen the impact these classes can have on individuals’ personal and professional lives and we want to be a part of our employees’ success,” shared Ms. Hernandez.

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