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Four Ways COVID-19 Has Healthcare Re-envisioning Workforce Development

Workforce Development is an essential area of healthcare that is always changing. In the same way that research findings alter evidence-based practice to support better patient outcomes, we enhance how we provide training, improve clinicians’ skills, and manage employees to make them more effective, efficient, and engaged caregivers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever to assess how we provide workforce learning and manage healthcare employees, and to rethink some of our accepted notions about using training to improve care.

Here are four ways healthcare is re-imagining workforce development in response to COVID-19:

  1. Cross-training Has Never Been So Important

    Meeting the emergency care needs of patients stricken during the COVID-19 pandemic can completely alter the proportions of care provided within many healthcare organizations—especially in those where elective procedures and outpatient care have long been a major source of revenue and income. Suddenly, much of that care was suspended as COVID-19 cases swamped ERs and took over ICUs. Many organizations found themselves adding whole ICU wards and suspending all non-emergent care. Specialists and clinicians who would usually be busy had little care in their areas and were conscripted to join the large teams providing COVID-19 care, and support staff needed training for new needs in these areas. Sometimes this involved additional training and significant learning on the job. Clinical cross-training in other care areas might speed the ability of health systems to respond even more effectively to major crises.

  2. Performance-guided Learning Helps Maximize Educational Benefits at a Crucial Moment.

    Healthcare professionals have little time to spare for activities that are not productive and meaningful. Repetitive annual training, both in terms of results and perception, runs counter to a workplace that should invest in every employee by celebrating and capitalizing on their strengths while offering support and assistance in areas that need further development. For that to happen, education, whether initial, one-time, annual, or remedial, needs to be tied to an individual’s performance. That way, their unique areas of strength and/or weakness can be identified—and that data can inform the specific development path they should take to achieve maximum benefit and an enhanced skill set. Known as performance-guided learning, this concept is an alignment of skill assessment and tailored education that takes development to a new level.

  3. Online Learning Is More Essential Than Ever.

    Many healthcare organizations still rely heavily on traditional classroom-based learning. There’s no denying that this method of education plays a vital role in training clinicians and everyone in healthcare to provide excellent care and achieve better outcomes. However, learning in a classroom environment does not work easily during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we are relying on social distancing for safety. Resuscitation training is just one example where training that facilitates social distancing is a necessary adjustment. The webinar recording available here discusses how clinicians can engage in self-paced, self-directed resuscitation training from the American Red Cross, while meeting all regulatory requirements.

  4. Employee Recognition Must Be a Focus at a Time When Employee Performance is Key.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has made a high level of performance necessary as healthcare systems are challenged by emergency conditions. Healthcare workers are having to make unexpected decisions in the midst of equipment shortages and fears for their own health, while encountering a viral disease about which we are still learning. This is an environment where high levels of performance are mandatory, and employee recognition is an important factor supporting their performance. Healthcare organizations with recognition-rich cultures in place are able to bring out the best in their people, not only for the moment, but often for the long term. Receiving a genuine moment of recognition connects to an employee’s strengths, purpose, and goals, such that the impact can linger and affect performance well beyond a predetermined time frame. Encouraging positive workforce behaviors through frequent, authentic, public recognition should be at the forefront of any effort to encourage activities that support employee engagement and performance.


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There’s a good reason why HealthStream’s workforce education solutions are already trusted by more than 70 percent of healthcare organizations in the United States. HealthStream’s comprehensive suite of learning and competency management tools empowers your people to deliver the best care more easily and effectively than ever before. Powered by the industry’s top content providers, HealthStream's Learning & Performance solutions connect you to healthcare’s largest learning community with learning customized by you to meet your organization’s unique needs.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in the article excerpted here was considered current at the time of its publishing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving disaster due to new findings, data, and availability of resources. Please refer to the CDC website for the latest detailed information when you need it.

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