Learning Where it Matters: Enabling the Enablers for Bedside and Beyond

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How can we ensure that every learning experience is high impact for the learner and adds value for the organization? This is the question faced by many large organizations. In a world of limited time, money, and resources, how can we make sure learning hits the mark every time?

This is a particularly unique challenge in the healthcare environment, where opportunities for learning can arise suddenly and the stakes are high. Indeed, time for learning can be hard to come by for any industry, but time for learning at the bedside is particularly elusive.

We are not immune to these challenges at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). In recent years, it became clear that there was a growing need for a program that would:

  • support and enable those who teach
  • build our learning capacity as an organization
  • increase the engagement of those who work in educational roles
  • demonstrate our commitment to building a strong learning culture.

Learning culture refers to the attitudes and practices within the organization regarding the importance placed on organizational learning and employee development. Research tells us that organizations with strong learning cultures are better positioned for agility and resilience in the face of a challenging, increasingly competitive economy, and in times of change.

During a session at the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition, I will discuss one of the ways KHSC is building a strong learning culture that supports and enables those who teach across the organization, ensuring quality, consistency, and high value in our approach to learning.

Inside KHSC

KHSC is situated in Southeastern Ontario, Canada. It is an academic health sciences center—a teaching hospital—fully affiliated with Queen's University. It has two hospital sites that are home to nearly 5,000 staff, 2,000 health care learners, and 1,000 volunteers.

Learning is ubiquitous at KHSC. It happens every day, is delivered by many people (no single owner), and happens on a variety of scales, ranging from corporate learning (everyone needs to know) to unit-specific learning (a relatively small group of people need to know). Consequently, one of the challenges we have faced is establishing a sense of consistency and rigor to how learning happens across the organization. We’ve heard for years that people in different learning roles across the organization do learning differently, and have varied levels of experience and expertise with designing and developing learning.

No doubt, it is difficult to ensure that learning is consistently impactful or to quantify the impact of the learning that does happen. Ultimately, this can have a variety of negative consequences, ranging from sub-optimal patient outcomes to increased costs for the organization. As part of our aim to build and support a strong learning culture, we have introduced a learning program to support and enable those who work in learning roles at KHSC.


Who Will Participate?

We had been hearing for years, both formally and informally, that people in educational roles were hungry for more professional development in the area of learning and teaching. Many people in educational roles (albeit not all) wind up in these roles because they are extremely knowledgeable and expert clinicians, and while they are interested in and passionate about education, they have not necessarily had any formal training.

Although there are many groups across the hospital involved in learning, we are initially delivering the program to our clinical learning specialists. This team of 17 people is responsible for learning at the unit level, and as such they have far reach in terms of influence at the frontline. Ultimately, anyone in a learning role could participate in the program.

What Will They Learn?

Participants will learn about foundational topics in performance and learning, including elements of instructional design and learning theory. Topics covered in the program include:

  • assessing performance needs
  • learning design
  • facilitating learning
  • evaluating learning.

As part of the program, we also have developed a unique learning model that will enable the clinical learning specialists to apply these foundational ideas within the unique constraints and challenges of the clinical learning environment.

How Will They Learn It?

Participants will engage in a variety of different learning experiences throughout the program. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Online/Self-Directed Learning. Learners will explore resources on these topics through the program website, including blogs, journal articles, podcasts, videos, and performance support tools. Participants will be able to explore these resources on their own time and at their own pace based on their unique learning needs. The site also includes an online discussion forum to facilitate group learning and sharing of experiences.
  • Application and Coaching. Learners will practice applying newly learned skills to an actual learning initiative. These application components will be coupled with one-on-one coaching sessions where they can discuss the experience, ask questions, and receive guidance for continued development.
  • Face-to-Face Workshops. Learners will practice applying skills in case studies, role-play, and simulated learning environments in the KHSC simulation lab.

What’s Different or Unique About This Program?

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada saw an opportunity to improve the medical education system by closing some gaps and assumptions. One assumption was that a learner absorbs and excels at an activity simply by the amount of time spent on the activity. This spurred the “Competence by Design” initiative, focused on learning outcomes and based on a competency framework. They set out a mandate for all disciplines to transition to Competency-Based Medical Education (CBME), and Queen’s University was the first University in Canada to make the transition in every one of its 29 residency programs in 2017.

This is noteworthy because CBME is the philosophy and approach residents are exposed to before they come to KHSC. Now, that philosophy and approach is supported internally at KHSC via our learning program—for all learners and employees to experience.

If you face similar challenges related to learning, or if you want to hear more about the program, I welcome you to attend my session May 8 at ATD 2018 Conference & Exposition in San Diego. I look forward to seeing you there!

About the Author
Mary Myers is a Certified Training and Development Professional (CTDP) currently enrolled in her last year of the Strategic Foresight and Innovation (MDes) program at OCAD University. Her focus is on human-centered design, systems thinking, and foresight work and how they fuels innovation in organizations. Much of her work has been strategic in nature and has consisted of developing overall strategies for her clients informed by expertise in customer experience, service design, and instructional design. Highlights include experience mapping, learning system design, process mapping, learning asset development and implementation, establishing overall instructional design approach, to helping build a custom learning management system (LMS) based on the principle of reusable learning objects. Mary fuels innovation and enables performance. Her aim is to be blissfully productive and bring an urgent optimism to everything she does, while focusing on connecting the dots.
1 Comment
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This sounds amazing! Working in healthcare and in an org that doesn't quite see the value in investing in training, this greatly intrigues me. Will look for more about this in the future!
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