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New ATD Research Explores the State of Healthcare Training

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The healthcare industry has unique talent development needs. For starters, it’s expected to add more jobs in the next decade than any other field. In addition, providers need to maintain high standards for patient care while navigating such challenges as the nursing shortage and the switch to value-based care.

In 2019 State of Healthcare Training, ATD Research sought to understand how healthcare organizations differ from those in other industries by examining key metrics such as average learning hours used per employee, average cost of learning per employee, learning delivery methods, and more. The report also discusses challenges specific to the healthcare industry, such as the nursing shortage and the switch to value-based care (a payment model that replaces fee-for-service care and reimburses only positive results in an effort to manage costs and deliver quality care).

The report, sponsored by Qstream, surveyed 52 organizations that provide healthcare services in the United States. These organizations fell into two groups: acute care hospitals (which primarily provide acute care hospital services) and nonacute facilities (which includes skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, ambulatory and outpatient care facilities, and many others).

Key Findings

One metric discussed in the report is the average number of learning hours used per employee. This refers to formal learning hours, which consist of learning that occurs as a standalone activity and is not embedded in work activities. For the consolidated healthcare group, the average number of learning hours used per employee was 25.5. While nonacute facilities had an average of 34 hours, acute care hospitals saw the lowest average (18.5 hours).

How does this compare to other industries? According to ATD’s 2018 State of the Industry report, the average number of learning hours used per employee across all organizations was 34.1. At nearly nine hours higher than the average for the healthcare group, and nearly double the average for acute care hospitals specifically, this difference is indicative of a major challenge healthcare organizations face: making time for learning.

“It is extremely difficult to get an employee ‘off the job’ to attend training,” says Jacque Burandt, president of Award-Winning Results and former executive director of the Center for Learning Excellence at University Health System. “There are so many competing priorities in any healthcare organization, and the patient always comes first. You can’t just walk away and go to class. Someone’s got to take care of the patient, someone’s got to read those lab results, clean the rooms, turn the bed. It’s all very time dependent.”



Based on key findings from the report, as well as interviews with talent development leaders in healthcare organizations, the report offers recommendations for how talent development leaders in healthcare can combat challenges and improve their approach to healthcare training. A few recommendations are excerpted below.

Get executive buy-in on the value of training. Due to limited time and staffing needs, it may be difficult to convince leaders that a particular training solution is necessary. Showing executives the value of learning through metrics, such as reduced errors or improved patient experience, may help convince them that there is a need for employees to take time for learning.

“Persuade the C-suite to see that learning is an investment and tie it to business results,” says Jacque Burandt.

Provide and promote programs that target nurses’ needs. The report found that the top strategies organizations have undertaken to combat the nursing shortage were providing tuition reimbursement, increasing opportunities for internal advancement, and formally partnering with educational institutions. As increased burnout was the top effect of the nursing shortage that respondents identified, programs that help nurses experiencing burnout or emotional distress are also valuable. Whatever programs organizations use to support nurses, promoting them is key.

“Because we have a shortage, there are a lot of emerging nurses who have the choice to decide where they want to work,” says Yon Sugiharto. “Healthcare organizations should showcase the programs they’re offering to show how they’re different from other healthcare organizations.”

Learn More

The full report is available for purchase here. ATD members can visit that link to download the whitepaper for free.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a research analyst at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she prepares surveys, analyzes data, and writes research reports and short case studies. Her previous positions at ATD include human capital specialist and communities of practice coordinator.

Prior to working for ATD, Shauna was a senior editorial assistant at Wiley in San Francisco, California. Shauna received a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley, and she is currently attending the University of Connecticut remotely to obtain a master's degree in survey research.

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