ATD Blog

Are Healthcare Trainers Meeting Learners Needs?

Friday, June 18, 2021

As healthcare talent development professionals, how does changing learner needs affect your approach to training?

Learning has drastically changed over the past 12 months, and many organizations are scrambling to figure out what the new face of training looks like. Healthcare training is no different. The last year aside, healthcare trainers’ ways of offering learning have not always been an acceptable solution for making our learners “role ready,” whether as a new hire or when advanced training or help is needed. So, as trainers, what do we need to do?

Post-pandemic learning has dramatically changed—a new way of learning is becoming the norm as training moves away from the traditional face-to-face mode. While it is easy to move courses, tip sheets, job aids, and other curricula online and turn them into remote offerings and help sites, are you really meeting your learners’ needs by doing this? Was what you were doing in the past going to meet your learners’ future needs?

A Call to Action

At UCHealth, we knew that remotely offering our existing face-to-face curricula was not the answer because, during design, key items were not considered, such as how to:

  • Engage learners that may be distracted.
  • Engross learners with hands-on practice.
  • Gauge learners’ knowledge levels through quick checks.

We realized that we needed to understand our learners’ needs (not assume based on past deliverables) then redesign all our training. No longer could we offer six to eight-hour remote training courses with the current curriculum, tip sheets, and quick start guides that were 26 pages long. We knew that this probably was not meeting our learners’ needs, but how did we know for sure?

To start this discovery process, we developed a short survey using Microsoft Forms, which included the following questions around learning preferences:

1. How many hours per day do you use Epic?
a. Not at all
b. 1–2 hours
c. Up to 4 hours
d. 8+ hours (entire shift)

2. Rank your preferred learning styles.
a. Read a document with visuals
b. Watch a video
c. Hands-on practice

3. If you don’t know something or how to complete your work in Epic and a co-worker is not nearby to ask, how would you find the information that you need? (Rank your options in order of importance.)
a. Search on the Source for the information
b. Call someone else on another unit or location
c. Figure it out on your own
d. Call a supervisor or co-worker at home
e. Find information using your dashboard in Epic
f. Use chat or help desk

4. Scenario: Imagine UCHealth has an easy to search resource for answering your Epic questions. How would you prefer to see the information?
a. A short video that demos the steps
b. A one- to two-page step by step document
c. A help manual with a table of contents
d. Other (please provide comments)

5. If given the option to watch a short video, what mode would you prefer?
a. Watch a demo of the workflow
b. Follow along with computer-guided practice
c. Try on your own with computer-guided hints
d. Test your knowledge with no computer guidance
e. Other (please provide comments)


6. If you are reading a one- to two-page step document, what would you prefer?
a. Only the steps that are relevant to the workflow in question
b. Context and background information to supplement the step-by-step workflow
c. Additional linked resources added to enhance the step-by-step workflow
d. Other (please provide comments)

7. If given the option to review a help manual with a table of contents, would you prefer the topics are broken down into:
a. Chronological steps with links to the subsequent topic(s) included in a document format
b. Recorded lessons with links to the subsequent topic(s) included with a table of contents
c. Other (please provide comments)

8. When listening to a training, do you prefer a human or computer-generated voice?
a. Human voice
b. Computer-generated voice
c. No preference
d. Other (please provide comments)

9. When viewing help documents, which type do you prefer?
a. Printed hard-copy version
b. Computer-based version
c. Other (please provide comments)

Overwhelmingly, our results were:

  • 80 percent of the staff wanted some type of hands-on practice
  • 75 percent of the staff wanted to only watch short videos or look at one-page help guides
  • 80 percent of the staff wanted to watch a demo of the workflow then have time to practice what they watched
  • 82 percent of the staff wanted the help manuals broken up into bite sized steps with links to other information, if needed
  • 92 percent preferred a human voice to a computer-generated voice
  • 75 percent preferred electronic copies of documentation versus printed copies

A New Process

The results of this survey identified the change that our IT training department needed to develop and deliver. To start our new journey, we followed these seven steps:

1. All curricula was reviewed, and if the current documents contained multiple processes and steps, then the curriculum was revamped and developed into short microlearnings.

  • Microlearnings for UCHealth could be simulations for hands-on practice, small step-by-step tip sheets, videos, or recorded learning sessions.
  • In all curriculum reviews, we asked for our instructional designers to ask themselves, “Are you telling them how to build the watch when they only want to know what time it is?” If yes, then revamp and turn the curriculum into microlearnings.

2. Work with a system that we just purchased to rebrand and standardize all tip sheets and create simulations, demonstrations, and interactive practice, for all tip sheets.


3. Rebrand all help curriculum to a new look and feel and remove all UCHealth branding so that our partners in healthcare could reuse the materials, as needed.

4. Set new standards for curriculum while making sure that everything was mobile ready.

5. Redesign large quick-start guides to be smart guides with links to the simulations.

6. Metatag every piece of the curriculum so that when accessed by learners, they would only see role-based curricula.

7. Use a robust search system that no longer shared more than 50 documents per search.

This was not an easy process because the training beliefs at UCHealth were that:

  • Information needed to be ready to print at all times.
  • When a learner was looking for help on a step or process, they should be able to have the “entire watch” processes and search as needed within the documents.
  • That 20-plus page quick start guides should be made into a course where a learner could search for information needed.

To begin the process of redeveloping everything into microlearnings, we brought together our instructional design and delivery team members to review all current curriculum and begin the process of breaking down the curriculum into bite-size pieces. This was an exhaustive process, and if I had to do this over again, I would make sure that change management training was offered so that any issues or concerns could be addressed before the actual redevelopment started.

Bottom line: As talent professionals, we need to always reach out to our learners to find out what they need to be “unit, clinics, or desk ready” and then quickly pivot to meet their needs. “Building a watch” is no longer what learners need in healthcare, especially in the world of YouTube learning and TikTok.

Indeed, our value in training is to constantly survey our leaners and figure out what we can deliver that meets their needs. This may be a constantly evolving process, but what better way is there to develop happy learners?

About the Author

Kelley Williamson is the director, IT at UCHealth, a large hospital system located in Colorado. At UCHealth, Williamson has a team of 65-plus training and support members who focus not only on the Electronic Medical Record system but also on all IT training requests. At UCHealth, Williamson has been responsible for revolutionizing training, and this has included retraining of staff, movement of staff to coaching role versus delivery roles, moving of all training to a remote model, using new tools to support one source of truth and quicker onboarding while training and supporting a quickly growing healthcare organization.

Williamson has been with UCHealth for 16-plus years, and the roles that she has held have been the director, IT; HR manager; business partners and manager of learning and development. Her previous experience encompasses being a director of associate development at Expanets, manager of learning and development at RELERA, and director of sales and marketing at DLC & Associates.

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