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ATD Blog

Design Learning in a COVID-19 Environment

Monday, May 3, 2021
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Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a demand for e-learning. It has also overwhelmed healthcare workers in ambulatory and hospital settings. So, how can healthcare workers keep up with essential training skills during a global pandemic? The simple answer is to focus on bite-size skill development with most of the learning occurring by immediate application and repetition of the new skills. Below are some examples and lessons learned for designing learning for healthcare workers.

Keep It Lean

No, I don’t mean use Lean Six Sigma for performance improvement. Cut to the chase in delivering the message and use the simplest design aid for achieving the learning goal. A picture or short video is more concise than extensive text that needs to be read. Since the pandemic began, patients have experienced a high level of fear accessing any healthcare setting. Rather than asking healthcare staff to read an article about how to reduce patient fear and increase confidence about safety, use a 60-second video to demonstrate two effective strategies for reducing patient fear. The staff will get the same message and be able to immediately apply the skills.

Make Learning a Part of the Routine

The pandemic has been in the US for almost one year. Rather than push burned-out healthcare workers to complete the half-hour required annual HIPPA training, integrate what needs to be learned into daily and weekly activities. When learning is an add-on activity rather than a part of the organization’s culture and operations, learning is perceived as one additional task added to an already busy plate of work.

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For example, use electronic medical record (EMR) alerts, ticklers, and checklists to ensure staff follow HIPPA requirements. Take 10 seconds in a daily huddle or weekly care team meeting to verify staff know how to report potential HIPPA violations and ask staff if they have any HIPPA concerns to report. Integrate simple strategies such as the teach-back method, which asks staff to tell you what they know and verify they are up to date on HIPPA regulations. Integrate learning into the existing operations to eliminate the perception that learning and training are burdens.

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Leverage the Team

Healthcare leaders are more stressed and exhausted than ever. A November 2020 New York Times article highlights that physicians and healthcare administrators are leaving the industry at unprecedented rates during the pandemic. To prevent burnout, use the entire healthcare team to train and cross-train skills.

Physicians don’t have to be the only team members that assure patients the ambulatory care setting is safe. Front-desk staff, medical assistants, and nurses can apply the same skills. Similarly, a charge nurse doesn’t have to be the only nurse that trains about updated protocols. Leverage another nurse that is detail oriented to train their colleagues in the procedure. Empowering the entire team increases a self of pride in the work and reduces the stress of managers and leaders.

Even during a pandemic, learning cannot stop for healthcare workers. Design the learning to be simple and a part of everyday work. Let’s continue to support our frontline workers and pivot learning strategies to meet the current crisis. Who knows—maybe the changes will be so effective they will stick after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

About the Author

Jaclyn King, MSW, APTD, is a senior healthcare transformation consultant with Optum Serve Consulting. She helps federal agencies deliver their mission and improve the health and well-being of those they serve. Seasoned in practice transformation, talent development and as a master trainer, Ms. King meets the learning needs for the healthcare industry.

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