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Creating Healthcare Experts—6 Things to Understand about Adult Learners

HealthStream recently interviewed Dr. Yosaitis, the Medical Director at the MedStar Simulation Training and Education Lab (SiTEL), which is part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation. Discussing SiTEL’s unique approach to training and development, Dr. Yosaitis shares his insights and focuses on six things to know about educating adults when taking a workforce from competency to expertise. Dr. Yosaitis explains that this is a crucial journey for healthcare providers in particular. He adds, “Education done correctly can have a huge impact on patient outcomes.” Here are six important concepts to keep in mind when creating healthcare educational experiences for adult learners:

  1. A community of learners encourages a positive learning experience.
    Dr. Yosaitis references social cognitive theory in explaining that without learning alongside others, learners have a harder time knowing their level of mastery. He explains, “If you want to become an expert, there needs to be some sort of learning community that you are a part of, with a leader who is giving feedback that informs each learner how he or she is doing within that community. You need the opportunity to be part of it, to figure it out for yourself, and to be guided towards improvement.”
  2. To avoid surface learning, adult learners need to find value in what is being taught.
    Dr. Yosaitis explains. “Adult learners are coming with their years of experience, and new information only adds to what they perceive. They already have their own perception of reality and how to do things. You can lose them really quickly if you are teaching them something that they do not think they need to know.” In order to excite adult students about learning and improving, Dr. Yosaitis suggests making sure that the new information solves a problem, is of interest to the learner, or tells a story. “If you take the adult learner and give them a solution to something that they perceive is a problem, they’ll be excited about it,” Dr. Yosaitis explains.
  3. Formative and summative assessment drives learning.
    Dr. Yosaitis suggests that although educators often don’t want to admit it, assessment drives learning. “Right now, assessment is very often treated as something different than learning, and they need to be connected,” Dr. Yosaitis explains. “So often, people learn because they know they are going to be assessed. He adds, “I think bringing assessment to the forefront, making it the ‘why’ to the problem, and having it follow the learner from novice to mastery is going to be the most exciting thing coming up in education.”
  4. Right-sized learning maximizes the impact of education.
    In evaluating training and development, SiTEL uses the cognitive load theory to consider how much a learner can hold in his or her head and how the brain processes that information. Innovators at SiTEL coined the term “right-sized learning” to explain their process of examining what amount of information they can give the learner that will have the most impact. “It’s not that shorter or more complete information is better. There has to be a right amount of learning to maximize the impact that the education is going to have on the learner,” Dr. Yosaitis explains.
  5. Experience enhances learning and can even be incorporated into online learning settings.
    Dr. Yosaitis explains, “No one is going to remember a list from watching a video or doing an interactive module. No matter how good it is, they’re only going to come away with a few things, and how they’re going to learn those things is the same way humans have always learned—by listening to a story or an argument.”
  6. Information must be reality-based and reinforced for learners to retain it.
    “Dr. Yosaitis explains that in order to prevent students from freezing in real-life scenarios, the learning needs to be based in reality. SiTEL believes that real-life learning can be accomplished through virtual reality, and they are actively pioneering this concept. Dr. Yosaitis suggests that virtual reality is an emerging model that will shape healthcare education and is key to achieving real-life learning. He concludes that reinforcement is key to retention and will continue to be something that healthcare educators stress in the future."

We interviewed Dr. Yosaitis for HealthStream’s Second Opinions Podcast Series. You can listen to the full Second Opinions Podcast here.

About John Yosaitis, M.D.:
Medical Director, MedStar Simulation Training & Education Lab
Medical Director, Integrated Learning Center, Georgetown University School of Medicine
Associate Professor, Georgetown University Medical School
John Yosaitis, M.D., is medical director of MedStar Simulation Training & Education Lab (SiTEL), the education and technology group developing learning solutions for associates at MedStar Health. He brings more than 25 years of clinical and leadership experience to this role, in which he directs the interdisciplinary team responsible for creating learning that elevates associate performance and advances patient care at MedStar.

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