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Moffitt Cancer Center prepares for major workforce growth

Opening of Speros FL in Pasco County part of nonprofit’s ambitious plan to add 5,000 workers over the next five years.
 
The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. [ Moffitt Cancer Center ]
Published March 22|Updated March 22

TAMPA — With construction underway on a 775-acre, cancer research and treatment hub in Pasco County, Moffit Cancer Center is preparing for major growth and change.

With a workforce of more than 9,000, Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center already is one of the Tampa Bay region’s biggest employers. With the expected 2026 opening of Speros FL in Pasco, Moffitt expects to grow to more than 14,000 workers over the next five years, said Jack McKenna, a senior vice president and chief human resources officer.

The first phase of development includes a 100,000-square-foot clinic with a state-of-the-art proton therapy center and a cutting-edge research center. Staffing it will mean Moffitt has to continue to hire “the best and brightest from around the globe,” McKenna said.

“Being fast growing, we’ve got to make sure we’re attracting that talent,” McKenna said. “We want to be an employer of choice; we want to continue to be a world class workplace so we’re trying to innovate and grow.”

McKenna is confident that Moffitt will be able to handle that growth but the nonprofit is not being complacent.

Since the pandemic, Moffitt has increased paid time off by up to three days according to length of tenure. It also conducts regular reviews of how its compensation and benefits compares against peer organizations.

Moffitt also held health insurance premiums flat for the past two years even while upgrading its health plan. It now includes advocacy services that help with claim issues, second opinions for medical services, no-cost telemedicine services and other features, McKenna said.

Jack McKenna, Moffitt Cancer Center senior vice president and chief human resources officer.
Jack McKenna, Moffitt Cancer Center senior vice president and chief human resources officer. [ Moffitt Cancer Center ]

Like most employers, Moffitt adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing a flexible hybrid-work plan that allows some employees to work from home although that’s not an option for a significant number of workers who interact in person with patients or who rely on high-tech laboratories to conduct research.

Annual surveys of employers are benchmarked against 4,000 other health care systems and cancer centers with Moffit ranking in the top 20%, McKenna said.

Moffitt’s location in Tampa Bay helps to attract workers, McKenna said, although, like every organization, there is a concern about the rising cost of housing and the need for better transportation in the region. The nonprofit’s management team is working with economic development boards in Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas to find solutions, he said. The development of Speros FL will further highlight those issues, he said.

Like many companies, Moffit was affected by the “Great Resignation” period in 2022 with turnover increasing by 3% to about 14%, McKenna said. That rate has steadily declined and the company is on pace to be back in single figures in the near future.

The work environment and employee morale benefits from the organization’s mission to treat cancer patients and help to cure cancer, McKenna said. It’s a goal that is communicated to every employee no matter their role.

“When you have a mission that is so clear, it makes it so easy,” McKenna said. “It creates a sense of teamwork, people galvanize around that mission.”

Vani Simmons joined Moffitt 16 years ago after completing her Ph.D. at the neighboring University of South Florida. She wears several hats, including the development of health initiatives and material designed to help people quit the use of tobacco products and a leadership role as the assistant center director for community outreach engagement and equity.

Her research topics include health disparities and diet and exercise recommendations for cancer survivors. She develops and evaluates what interventions are most effective at reducing or preventing tobacco use. As one of the leaders of the community outreach office, she looks into how well Moffitt is serving the needs of the its 23-county catchment area.

“No day is the same,” she said. “It keeps life interesting and fulfilling because you can have impact.”

Vani Simmons, Moffitt assistant center director for community outreach engagement and equity.
Vani Simmons, Moffitt assistant center director for community outreach engagement and equity. [ Moffitt Cancer Center ]

The workplace culture at Moffitt encourages collaboration and teamwork, she said. Mentors help employees reach their career goals. For their annual appraials, they are asked to document how many colleagues they collaborate with both inside and outside of their own departments.

“You know it’s valued in an institution when it’s built into the metrics of an evaluation,” she said. “I really thrive and enjoy working with other people and coming up with ideas together.”

It’s easy to feel that the work she is doing matters, Simmons said. There are downsides, such as losing out on grant applications. But often she gets to see her work make a real world difference.

One example was a recent study funded by the National Institute of Health that surveyed about 1,400 smokers to gauge the effectiveness of a series of information booklets designed to help them quit.

Each booklet focuses on a different challenge they face such as how to manage cravings, concerns about weight gain, and dealing with stress and negative moods. The booklets made be made available nationally through the National Cancer Institute.

“It’s not just about advancing the science,” Simmons said. “We want the people we develop the inventions for to be the ones that get to use them.”

• • •

Moffitt Cancer Center

Location: Tampa

Employees: 9,077

Website: moffitt.org

Employee comments: “I don’t know of a place outside of Moffitt that cares for the patients who walk through the doors like Moffitt does. Everyone from in the halls, to the cafeteria, to the clinic, and also the office suites; everyone cares for the patients.”

“It is a position where I have the opportunity to talk to people and make a difference in their day. I enjoy the positive energy I feel when I come to work.”

“Every person, employee or patient, is treated like an individual. No one is treated like they are just a number.”