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Best Practice: Establish Staff Advisory Councils to Elevate Healthcare Workforce Education

What’s the best way to get buy-in from employees when it comes to workforce education and training? Get them involved on the front end. That has worked well for many healthcare systems, which have implemented nursing and other councils to vet everything from onboarding and training to general best practices around improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.

The council, or strategic group, methodology succeeds because it provides buy-in clearly and visibly, 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. In addition to overseeing the learning and development efforts for the system's 15,000 associates, Lawrence has more than 30 years of IT and HR experience in healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, energy, and transportation.

“One thing we’ve done differently in the last few years as we begin to mature the learning culture of the organization is to establish a cabinet, or a council,” Lawrence explains. “Those council members are a cross section of leaders in the organization, many of whom either had a focus on learning or had a need for learning resources to tap into. We began a dialogue that included:

  • Clinical informatics
  • Chief nursing executives
  • HR leaders
  • Mission/community-focused leaders

What's been interesting is to watch the complexion of that cabinet, which we call the Enterprise Learning and Personal Development Cabinet. These are practitioners, not folks who sit in removed capacities. They are on the front line and building upon those cultural components of passion and interest around education and learning.”

Councils serve as sounding boards and planning entities

SCH Health also has created an executive advisory council at the senior most levels of the organization. It and the other councils… are focused on operational excellence as well as hearing the voice of the customer, or patient.

“I think there's a desire to engage in this particular organization and culture that I have not necessarily witnessed in other cultures and other verticals in my career,” Lawrence says. “At their core, healthcare associates are passionate about caring for others and so I think that permeates into the education approach.”

As an example, he cites an ongoing program to clear up miscommunication and misunderstandings around the company’s revenue service division.

“We looked at at our teams, and we had candid conversations about what was needed,” he says. “And one of the things that was needed was the ability to educate our team members on conflict resolution. Once we started making that investment, not only did the communication improve at the leadership level, it started to permeate down through the ranks. We implemented a leadership development program that has been very successful; we worked with the revenue service center team, talked to them about what their learning needs were both technically and from a leadership perspective.”

That led to training and follow-up to keep new skills intact and in use and has created a new dynamic in that very important business operation.

Over the course of a 90-day period we had a series of coaching sessions, opportunities to ask questions and relate experiences,” Lawrence says. “Where did folks find it easy to apply what they have learned, where were they struggling? We also laid out an expectation that we wanted to see. It was a very grounding experience for all of us, and it's created opportunity for the revenue service team to continue to grow. I think we also as educators, learning leaders, and organizational development leaders can also take pride in the realization that we were responding favorably to a customer need.”

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.

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