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Seven Best Practices to Shift Your Approach to Healthcare Training

HealthStream recently spoke with Andrew Lawrence, the Vice President of Enterprise Learning and Personal Development at SCL Health in Broomfield, Colorado. SCL Health is a faith-based, not-for-profit health network serving communities in Colorado, Kansas, and Montana. Lawrence, who has over 30 years of experience in corporate education both inside and outside of healthcare, leads the learning and development efforts for SCL Health’s 17,000 associates. In a recent Second Opinions podcast, Lawrence identified the ideas and concepts that have shaped his perspective on learning and development in healthcare.

  1. Focus on relationships.

    Discussing various training experiences, Lawrence stresses the importance of developing open relationships among team members and with executive leaders. He suggests that with a strong relationship comes a willingness to have meaningful conversations, where gaps in learning can be easily identified, feedback can be easily accepted, and solutions can be created to close those gaps.

  2. Practice reflection.

    The concept of reflection or ‘reflective practice’ is a key component of transformative learning theory, which has become increasingly important across healthcare disciplines. Researchers say that reflection is more than just thoughtful practice; it is the process of turning practice into potential learning situations. Equipping staff with these skills will make them more confident and autonomous. Lawrence considers reflection to be the catalyst that caused him to begin viewing learning and development from a different perspective.

  3. Don’t underestimate the role of stewardship and creativity when facing uncertainty.

    When reflecting on the current uncertainties facing healthcare, whether it’s funding cuts, staff shortages, or the influx of information that staff must learn, Lawrence acknowledges the demand to do more with less. He explains how SCL Health embraces the concept of stewardship, “Our culture embraces the mindset of being accountable and responsible for the assets, tools, and finances that are entrusted to us. We strongly believe that our financial decisions should benefit not only our associates, but our community.”

    Lawrence also suggests that successfully doing more with less requires creativity. Referencing an example of associate engagement surveys that highlighted a gap in learning and development, Lawrence explains how their team creatively developed new partnerships, assessments, and metrics to change direction and gauge their progress. “If we identify there are certain areas that need targeting for improvement, we take that very seriously here at SCL Health,” Lawrence explains. “Combining new metrics, partnerships with providers, and really studying the resulting feedback has allowed us to influence our partners in the creation of healthcare-specific solutions that have allowed us to take advantage of fully customized solutions for pennies on the dollar.”

  4. Be mindful of generational differences (and it’s not just millennials!).

    There is a lot of discussion about how the healthcare industry needs to approach the education of the millennial employee differently from other generations. Lawrence recognizes the need to be cognizant of generational differences, but cautions against making assumptions. Lawrence explains, “We have to ask the same questions of our millennial associates as we do of any generation represented in the workforce. We must continue the dialogue, even against some of the social norms. Keeping communication open with our associates of all generations, in particular millennials, is vitally important in order to be successful going forward.”

  5. Choose metrics that matter.

    Often, leaders in healthcare don’t know how to tell if they have truly been successful or not. In discussing performance metrics, Lawrence cites two metrics that are important to both executives and learners—reducing the amount of time to train and increasing representative performance.

    Lawrence suggests that rather than arbitrarily setting a mark to reduce training time, one should engage in conversation about it. He suggests that success occurs when the desire to reduce the time to train is based on the desire to change the way that learning actually takes place. Lawrence explains that this is most effectively measured when you compare a control group to the group that is learning a new curriculum. If the new curriculum is successful, there will be an increase in the representative performance.

  6. Prioritize learning initiatives.

    Lawrence mentions that over the years he has been continuously surprised by the importance of prioritization of learning initiatives. “It’s impossible to do everything for everyone,” Lawrence says, “I have to continue to remind myself that I do not have an unending amount of capacity, and neither do my associates. We have to rely on our prioritization and our governance.”

    Lawrence concludes, “I’ve gone from being the practitioner on the front line to the curriculum developer; from the one delivering resources to the leader. In our desire to jump in and make things right or better, we have to pace ourselves. I would advocate for us all to continue to take a deep and thoughtful look at our approach to prioritization, governance, and capacity as we all move forward. And I’m happy to say that here at SCL Health, we are doing exactly that.”

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