Linking Healthcare Competency to the Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Maintaining competence in the face of evolving clinical and regulatory pressures is one of the most daunting tasks facing healthcare leaders. Volumes have been written on the topic, and there is an abundance of concepts that make at least some theoretical sense. So, if we want to move from theory to practice, where do we start?

Lifelong Learning Is Fundamental to Healthcare Competency

A commitment to lifelong learning is not optional in healthcare. Learning new skills and keeping current skills sharp while growing personally and professionally is essential in the rapidly changing landscape of healthcare. The rapid evolution of technology, the changing landscape of healthcare economics, and other innovative disruptions increasingly mean that standing still is equivalent to moving in reverse. Of course, some of those disruptive technologies can also support the lifelong learner, such as the evolution of eLearning. These technologies are useful for both selection and development of lifelong learners.

Creating a Learning Culture

Recently, HealthStream interviewed Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Clinical Operations for Quorum Health Resources. She shared her perspective on lifelong learning and how companies can foster a culture that supports learning and learners. On the employer’s role in creating a learning culture, Cooper had this to say, “Essentially, if a company has human capital, they understand that capital determines their success. If they want to be successful and they do not give their people lifelong learning opportunities, someone else will. People really want to do a good job and to be successful. If they perceive that they are in an environment where they cannot, or it is difficult to, incorporate the learning on their own, they are poachable. If the employer wants to be successful, they have a role in this.”

Employee Accountability for Lifelong Learning

It is also essential for employees to take ownership for and understand their roles in lifelong learning. Cooper points to the behaviors that indicate an employee is a lifelong learner. “Of course, the engaged employee is a career-directed employee. They have an interest in developing their craft. Their work and continued research on that work will show them ways to continue to grow in their career, be successful in their role and be seen by others as successful in their careers.” Cooper also shared that even though Quorum has a wide variety of employees and disciplines within their organization, the organization has a plan to grow and develop all of them.

Using the Evaluation Process to Guide Lifelong Learning

Cooper points to the importance of evaluations in helping employees understand their roles as lifelong learners. “A rigorous approach to evaluations and self-evaluations serves as the foundation for lifelong learning at Quorum. The purpose is to help the employee establish where they currently are and where they want to be, and then develop a detailed plan that helps them get there,” says Cooper. Establishing competence starts during the selection process; at Quorum; they take steps to establish that new hires will fit well into Quorum’s culture of lifelong learning. Cooper shared that, “We do behavioral interviews during the selection process to help us look at detailed examples of their work, certifications, etc. We want to see that they are excited and enthusiastic about their work. We schedule multiple interviews which allows feedback on many areas. We can usually tell very quickly when we have made a selection error. If an employee is unhappy, it is not possible to hide it. It might show up in late reports, lack of detail in reports, and a lack of interest in next steps and key metrics.”

This blog post is the first in a series of excerpts from the HealthStream article, Maintaining Competency: Turning Concepts into Practice. Healthcare providers use the HealthStream Competency Center to Measure & Validate Competency. Doing so includes the ability to measure and benchmark behaviors or levels of competence in positions across the healthcare field through peer, preceptor, or manager appraisal, including methods of validation and evidence of achievement. Explore HealthStream clinical development solutions that ensure competency.

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