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Investing in continuous learning for healthcare professionals is non-negotiable | Viewpoint

Opinion
Article

Healthcare organizations must adopt a pragmatic and intentional approach that integrates training into routinely scheduled programs.

Healthcare organizations must adopt a pragmatic approach that integrates training into scheduled programs. (Image credit: ©HeroImages - stock.adobe.com)

Healthcare organizations must adopt a pragmatic approach that integrates training into scheduled programs. (Image credit: ©HeroImages - stock.adobe.com)

Working in the healthcare space has become increasingly complex as the industry navigates changes in technology, the way patients receive care, shifting regulations and other factors.

Adapting to these changes means setting aside time to build and deliver training or upskilling, yet there’s rarely a convenient time to pull nurses and doctors away from their responsibilities.

Leaders must consider taking a continuous approach to learning and development to deliver the necessary training in the most effective way.

Here are three strategies for doing so effectively.

Limiting the cycle of learning and burnout

Patient care and professional obligations are understandably prioritized during regular working hours, leaving hospital staff with little time or energy to pursue training outside of their responsibilities.

Healthcare professionals do have a desire for development and growth opportunities, but if the opportunities only add undue burden to their already strained schedules, they can often contribute to the very burnout that makes employees apprehensive about learning and development overall.

Healthcare organizations must adopt a pragmatic and intentional approach that integrates continuous learning into routinely scheduled programs. Ideally, a growth opportunity should not feel like an unbeneficial obligation. Instead, it should be designed to fit into schedules and delivered in easily digestible formats.

Prioritize teaching just one or two skills at a time that can be applied day-to-day, not forgotten a few weeks down the road.

Openly addressing logistical and emotional hurdles

When teams are being pulled out of training to prioritize other things, it communicates that learning itself is not a priority.

Leadership must have a united front when selecting and promoting sessions they intend for the entire workforce to undergo. Showing that your organization supports ongoing development is critical. Avoid canceling or rescheduling training, minimize external distractions during the sessions, and get the full leadership team’s buy-in.

Continuous learning and development can be offered in shifts, ensuring ample coverage and minimal disruption to patient care. There should also be multiple methods of delivery available, such as options for online or hybrid learning, allowing the workforce to rotate through training based on their own preferences and availability.

Measuring Outcomes and Celebrating Success

Healthcare executives are in a unique position to both measure the efficacy of new training programs and communicate its successes to the larger workforce. With this in mind, a few steps leaders can take to ensure the success of a continuous learning and development program include the following.

  • Articulate the purpose: Sharing where the organization is going and how training programs are helping it get there will help define the reasons employees should participate in them.
  • Maintain ongoing communications: Check in with employees at multiple points in the training process to best understand what is working and what isn’t. The success of a program should not be measured in just knowledge retention – that knowledge also must be regularly applied and additive to a skillset.
  • Adjust resources and support as needed: No initiative is perfect and there is always room for improvement. What might need to change: time, funding, technology?
  • Promote a culture of learning: Foster a culture that values and prioritizes continuous learning. Recognize that professionals are not static employees; they want to grow alongside their career and be able to showcase new skills.

Recognizing and celebrating the impact of continuous learning and development initiatives is an important part of motivating the workforce and demonstrating the value of ongoing development. Sharing success stories – not just by data or hard numbers, but also through a feeling of accomplishment or greater ability to serve patients – can motivate other professionals to engage in future opportunities.

You may not land on the right learning and development fit for your organization on the first try, but by testing and learning to find the right fit, leaders can help address some of the main barriers that prevent employees from being able to pursue the development opportunities they desire. This will ultimately allow them to improve initiatives based on feedback, find what suits their needs, and create capacity for valuable training opportunities.

Investing in continuous learning and development can help the healthcare industry better react to the challenges of today’s environment and the future.

Kathy Gersch is chief commercial officer and founder of Kotter International, a consulting firm.


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