Focusing On Relationships in Healthcare Learning and Development

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

The word ‘culture’ gets tossed around quite a bit in discussions about the workplace, and workforce development. “Our company culture” is often a talking point for senior leadership, not to mention a pull-down tab on the company website. But what does it mean when it comes to workforce training and development, especially in the healthcare arena?

Taken a bit further, company culture can be informative and instructive when it comes to training, says Andy Lawrence, Vice President of Enterprise Learning & Personal Development at SCL Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit health network serving communities in Colorado, Kansas, and Montana. Lawrence leads the learning and development efforts for 15,000 associates, and so he’s had plenty of opportunity to look at the culture question from lots of different angles. In the end, he suggests, relationships still carry the day.

“Culturally our organization identifies with something known as reflection,” Lawrence says. “That is the genesis of what has caused me, in my role at SCL Health, to view learning and development from a different perspective. We have to take into consideration old adages like ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ And so, when we take our culture into consideration we have to realize that as educators we need not be barriers. One way that I have found to be successful and serve the mission of the organization is to build on those cultural aspects, those focused on relationships. There's no question that how we make progress is through our relationships.”

Creating Relationships to Drive Learning Goals for Healthcare: EMR Adoption

That means evaluating learning around specific goals, and seeing how relationships—teacher to student, students to each other, students to material–affected the process. That was vital in elevating the efficiency and effectiveness of electronic medical record (EMR) adaption, Lawrence says.

“We started to have meaningful discussions about where there were gaps in the learning, and one of the things that we realized as an organization from a learning perspective heavily focused on our electronic medical record conversion was that all sorts of other aspects needed to be present in the learning environment. We had not necessarily been focused on all the non-EMR transactions and how to believe that that was being addressed by operations. When we started digging into it, and again going back to the fact that once we started to have good relationships we were fostering good behaviors from a relationship perspective, there was more of an atmosphere to share where the gaps were.

Building strong relationships with all stakeholders meant more and better feedback around where there were gaps or issues in the curriculum or learning process. That led to fast results.

“We built solutions to close the gaps, and in one month the curriculum development team and the instructor teams for the revenue service area got together and in two weeks’ time were able to touch more than 350 learning objects and get the converted to the latest version of the EMR, correct some of the deficits and deliver that back to the customer. Needs were heard, they were addressed rapidly, and we moved at the speed of business,” Lawrence explains.

This is a prime example of how strengthening relationships leads to positive business development on many fronts, he notes.

“Building relationships positions us to be able to start focusing on the other gaps in systems that fall outside of the EMR, and it gets us as a learning organization back to our core belief that training is about teaching people how to do their job. We can't be selective or exclusive in that approach. We have to be inclusive and all encompassing. Does that necessarily mean that we have to be the subject matter experts? Perhaps not. There is give and take and there is learning on both sides, and when I turn the mirror on ourselves I think there has been a clear realization that as we mature as a learning organization, we have to constantly go back and check in, and we also have to be able to have very candid conversations around priorities and responsibility and hold one another accountable.”

About  Andy Lawrence:

Andy Lawrence is Vice President of Enterprise Learning & Personal Development at SCL Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit health network serving communities in Colorado, Kansas and Montana. Lawrence leads the learning and development efforts for the system's 15,000 associates. He has more than 30 years of IT and HR experience in healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, energy, and transportation.

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Lawrence’s full discussion, click here.