3 Steps to Better Healthcare Training

It is no mystery that the healthcare industry is complex, everchanging, and operates with incredibly high stakes. At times, it may seem the number of challenges healthcare organizations face is too numerous to count. Consider some of these challenge areas—keeping in mind there are many more:
  • Managing rising costs
  • Complying with regulatory requirements
  • Keeping up with advancements in medicine and technology
  • Managing ethics
  • Controlling infectious diseases within medical facilities
  • Adhering to HIPAA despite security challenges associated with mobile devices and social media
  • Addressing work overload and staff burnout
  • Providing enough mentoring opportunities
  • Reserving adequate time for patients
  • Mitigating cybersecurity breaches
  How Can Training Help? Training alone cannot solve all these problems, but it can play an integral role in improving operational and employee performance in each area listed above. If your goal is to transform your healthcare workers’ skills and abilities to help address these challenges—instead of simply transferring information about these topics to them (think “in one ear and out the other”)—you should use a targeted, competency-based approach.   How Can You Maximize Healthcare Workers’ Limited Time for Training? But first things first: Does your healthcare workforce have the time to complete training? What if, instead of taking them away from their jobs for hours or days at a time, they could make a little bit of progress each day? Imagine, for instance, an overnight emergency room nurse who has only 15 minutes during his shift to dedicate to training. Instead of putting a one-hour training course off for another night (and then another night, and then another), the nurse could log in to a learning platform, check his personalized learning path, and complete a few five-minute learning assets that will help him develop the competencies he needs. If he were to repeat this process each shift, he’d have at least one hour of learning under his belt each week and over 50 hours of training each year. That’s 50 hours of training per year with minimal interruption to work. Just imagine how much progress healthcare workers could make if they had this type of training available to them.   How Can You Improve Your Healthcare Organization’s Training Design? Not only should the training seat time and format meet your learners needs, but the design of each learning asset should support them, as well. Generally, healthcare professionals need training with:
  • Realistic scenarios that illustrate cause and effect
  • Practice opportunities in safe, risk-free environments
  • Personalized observation and feedback
  • Continued coaching and mentoring
  What Process Should Be Used to Develop Healthcare Training? Not all training can fit into a “one-size-fits-all” approach; however, the steps below provide a strong foundation for competency-based training development that yields improved organizational and employee performance in the healthcare industry.   Step 1: Conduct analysis to identify needed competencies and assign those competencies to healthcare workers based on their roles and responsibilities. What do you hope to achieve through training? Conduct analysis—through interviews, focus groups, and data collection—to identify performance gaps and strengths. Then, list the competencies your healthcare workforce needs to develop to bridge gaps and maximize talents. Use your learning management system (LMS) to assign competencies to target audiences, based on roles, responsibilities, and other criteria relevant to your organization (e.g. geographic locations, language). For each competency, develop a short (5–10 minutes) learning asset, or a series of short learning assets that build on each other. Then, house those assets in a library that healthcare professionals can complete throughout their day, when their schedules allow. Incorporate a variety of delivery formats in your library—not only to “keep things interesting” for learners but also to offer differentiated instruction for learners who might grasp a concept in one format (an infographic, for instance) better than another (such as a video). As a baseline, include brief e-learning modules, videos, and infographics that highlight key concepts and present complex ideas into easily digestible units.   Step 2: Design, test and enhance learning assets for each competency. Remember, the purpose of microlearning is to enable healthcare professionals to maximize their limited availability for training. So, instead of simply “sharing information,” design the assets to trigger changes in their on-the-job behavior. Consider these tips:
  • Start off with a hook: At the beginning of any learning asset, try to grab learner attention, share why the content is relevant, boost learners’ confidence level to master the competency, and/or explain why learners will get satisfaction out of completing this learning asset. This strategy is based on Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivation. Think of it as the “hook” that helps tune your learners in, or a tasty appetizer that whets the palette for more learning.
  • Clearly illustrate cause and effect via realistic scenarios: For each competency, emphasize the “why” behind what you are asking your healthcare workers to do. For instance, if the training is about HIPAA, share a quick story about that time a health worker shared a photo of her engagement ring on social media but didn’t realize a patient could be seen in the background of the photo. What was the impact to that patient? What consequence did the health worker experience? Don’t forget to share the part of the story that illustrates impact and consequences. If learners can visualize what the training concepts look like in real life, they will be both better prepared and more motivated to implement it in their jobs.
  • Build interactions that simulate realistic situations and environments: It is not enough to know about skills and information; healthcare workers need ample opportunities to practice it and receive feedback in risk-free environments that closely mirror reality. Build constructive feedback into these interactions; learners cannot course correct if they don’t realize anything is wrong. Make the feedback meaningful. Instead of simply saying, “That is incorrect. The correct answer is…” explain the reasons why. Remember, if learners make an error in training that isn’t rectified, they are likely to make the same mistakes at work.
Once the learning asset is developed, invite a segment of the target audience to complete the training and provide feedback. Incorporate edits from this pilot program into the learning asset before publishing for the full audience. Within the next 30–90 days, conduct a more comprehensive evaluation to determine whether the learning asset is being completed and its impact on employee and operational performance. In other words, did the learning asset do what it was intended to do? If so, proceed as planned. If not, make needed modifications and reevaluate again 30–90 days later. Continue this cycle until the original goal that drove the need for this training is achieved.   Step 3: Offer live coaching and mentoring after learners complete a learning asset (or a series of assets). Through training, learners will have digested engaging instruction, reviewed scenarios that help them visualize how these concepts play out at work, as well as practiced key skills in a simulated environment that mirrors their workspace. When mastering competencies where the stakes are high, healthcare professionals should also have opportunities to be observed on-the-job by experts and receive personalized feedback and coaching. Consider developing automated schedules, observation checklists and coaching guides to make this process easy for busy healthcare workers to implement. If needed, provide incentives for ensuring learners are receiving actionable feedback from experts.   In short, healthcare workers are bombarded with challenges, but training doesn’t have to be one of them. Follow the three steps above to take your healthcare organization’s learning programs to the next level. Little by little, learners can achieve the operational and employee performance needed to meet the complex demands of the healthcare industry.  

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