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ATD Blog

Simulation’s Role in Healthcare Talent Development: Q&A With Gretchen Kolb

Friday, October 8, 2021

The ATD Talent Development and Training in Healthcare Handbook (ATD Press, November 2021) addresses the many opportunities and challenges TD professionals face in the growing and rapidly changing healthcare space. Effective talent development is the thread that weaves through an entire healthcare organization to ensure it is up to standard with the latest practices in treating patients while providing a safe and engaging environment for staff. TD professionals have the unique role of tying together organizational and employee advancement in healthcare systems—and likewise, this handbook dives into areas for both business and professional evolution.

Written by 25 fellow healthcare practitioners with extensive experience in the field—from nurses, physicians, and administrators to instructional designers, chief learning officers, technology experts, and leaders across the industry, it covers six key themes across 26 chapters:

  • Learning and Development Basics
  • Organization Development
  • Employee Development
  • Business Acumen for the Health System
  • Digital Transformation and Literacy
  • Patient-Centric Care

Learn more about Gretchen Kolb, director of learning innovation at Penn Medicine Academy, and her contribution “Simulation Centers” in this spotlight Q&A.

Gretchen Kolb.png

How have your experience(s) in leadership and clinical development and digital transformation shaped the best practices you shared?

As my role within Penn Medicine expanded beyond simulation to include other learning solutions such as classroom, virtual and online, leadership development, and talent management, I have benefitted by gaining a more global view of the organization’s learning needs and having access to various options to strategically address them. Whether it is the opening of a new hospital, implementing a system-wide electronic medical record, preparing staff to respond to a highly infectious disease, or enhancing manager’s feedback skills, simulation at Penn Medicine has become an integral part of the health system’s plan to drive readiness for change, mitigate risk, and improve processes and quality, thereby increasing the overall agility of the health system. I hope that other centers have the same opportunity to grow and expand the use of simulation to implement successful transformation in alignment with their strategic organizational imperatives and magnify their impact.

How do you foresee advancement of simulation centers within healthcare? (In an ideal world, how do you see this area flourishing for employee or organizational development?)

As technology and realism improve and cost and production time decrease, I think we will see the expansion of virtual reality training just as we have seen an expansion of telehealth. Not only will it enable distanced learning, which is a plus from an infectious disease- and large health system-perspective, but it could also decrease the amount of dedicated simulation space required and provide greater efficiency for the learner who can participate from their home if needed.


What is something unexpected you learned while working on this book?

It was fun! I really enjoyed reflecting on all I had learned through my 15 years being a part of our simulation program. After such a long time, and being a part of it since its inception, it is easy to take for granted where we are now and the hard work it took to get here.


Is there something professional or personal you are proud of accomplishing in the past year?

Given that COVID-19 has colored so many of our accomplishments over the past year, I would say that I am proud our simulation team has been able make adjustments to safely maintain many of our simulation activities as well as preparing our providers to safely treat the disease. I am also proud of the way the Penn Medicine Academy has launched various new live virtual programs such as our quarterly Penn Medicine book club, twice monthly Lunch With Leaders talk show, and the monthly “30 Minute Coach” to continue connection with our managers who have the challenging task of keeping our workforce engaged and resilient during such tremendous stress.

What is a fun fact about yourself or one sentence of advice you’d like to share?

Say yes to stretch assignments. I started my career as a genetic counselor, and while it was an amazing and rewarding experience, accepting challenging projects and roles that were outside of my comfort zone, even while cringing on the inside, enabled me to reach even greater career satisfaction.

About the Author

Niranjani Chidamber Papavaritis is the Head of Content for ATD's healthcare and government industry verticals, and the Manager for ATD's global conferences and strategy. In her role, she is responsible for content and product development, partnering with SMEs and executives to create a suite of training resources through blogs, magazine articles, webinars, books, and events. Prior to working at ATD, Niranjani served as a business development advisor at Optum (under UnitedHealth Group). Her specialities include healthcare management, organizational development, business development, and content strategy. Niranjani received a degree in political science and information systems from UMBC, in Baltimore, Maryland.

1 Comment
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Simulation and virtual reality are going to increase dramatically in healthcare as their costs continue to decrease. If you need more expertise in these areas, Gretchen's chapter will prepare you. (And there's 25 additional chapters to boot!)
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