health care, profession, people and medicine concept

Wherefore Art Thou, Healthcare?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

As I write this blog, it’s late September, also known as awards application season for talent development professionals. In fact, Chief Learning Officer’s Learning Elite, Training Magazine’s Top 125, and ATD’s BEST Awards currently have impending deadlines.

Having been involved for more than a decade as both an applicant and a reviewer for many awards, I am continually struck by the lack of representation from healthcare organizations. With help from ATD’s Community of Practice in Healthcare team, as well as from folks working in communications, awards, and higher ed at ATD, I decided to research my belief that healthcare is underrepresented, compared to other industries.

In reviewing the list of ATD’s BEST winners since the award’s inception, I discover that only about 10 percent of all winning organizations are in healthcare.


Why is there a small percentage of healthcare organizations listed as ATD BEST winners? With some exceptions, including my former employer and current client, nine-time BEST winner University Health System (full disclosure), healthcare is noticeably absent from the list.

Conducting a bit of field research at talent development events through the years, I have heard these theories postulated by colleagues:

  • Healthcare is a relatively new player in talent development professional circles. ATD’s Community of Practice started in 2013, whereas other industries, such as, financial services and hospitality have been around for a while longer.
  • Healthcare talent development staff are too busy. (Just ask us.) Supporting a 24/7/365 operation can be relentless on schedules, leaving little time to take on an extra 40-plus hours to complete an award application.
  • Healthcare is often viewed as a soft skills field, characterized by caring behaviors, which are perceived to be difficult to measure.
  • There is the attitude: “We’re in the business of saving lives, not competing for something as frivolous as winning awards.”

It’s time for you to weigh in with your thoughts on this disparity. Do any of these theories provoke a response from you? What has your experience been? How can we encourage more award applications and winners? Now that value-based care is part of our daily lives, we have greater access to the data we need to link learning to business results.

Personally, I’d love to see healthcare showing off our best practices more often. Benchmarking, feedback from judges, ideas for improvement, and networking with award winners are just some of the advantages to jumping into the competition. Indeed, I challenge healthcare talent development professionals to get busy and start showing up on the lists of exceptional learning organizations!

About the Author

Jacque Burandt, MEd, president of Award-Winning Results in San Antonio, Texas, is passionate about transforming organizations through people development, creating top performers and leaders at all levels of the organization and enhancing organizational and individual visibility, prestige, and pride through achieving awards and recognition for her clients' great work. Her award-winning clients include Texas Health Resources, Alamo Colleges, and University Health System.

A proven expert in creating an award-winning culture, Jacque led the team at University Health System (UHS), San Antonio, Texas, to win eight ATD BEST Awards and ATD's first Innovation in Talent Development Award. UHS has won more BEST Awards than any other nonprofit organization in the world. She served as chairperson of ATD's Public Policy Committee, authored five case studies for ATD's Skills Gap Series, and co-chaired the Strategic Planning Committee for Workforce Solutions Alamo. She serves on ATD's Awards Strategy Committee.

Jacque and her UHS team also won four Chief Learning Officer Learning Elite Awards, including Editor's Choice for Best Midsize Company in 2016 and five Chief Learning Officer Learning in Practice Awards.

Jacque designs and delivers highly interactive workshops to build crucial skills. Audiences consistently find her motivating, energizing, and entertaining. Her dynamic presentations are custom tailored to each audience, giving attendees the insights, skills, and strategies to take their performance to the next level.

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Only speaking for my own organization, training is very de-centralized and many of the people and departments that are driving training initiatives are SMEs first, trainers second. Our small L&D team is to small and under-funded to truly innovate, but we are working on it. Would love to have something that we thought was award-worthy in a few years.
Brian, you're not the only one. I work for a sizable university healthcare system and decentralized talent development is a huge problem. My (3-person) team has created some pretty innovative and engaging eLearning for physicians, but we're so busy we don't have time to invest in applying for awards.
Jacque, your last bullet point about defining "our business" is also a strong underlying current in my organization.
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Thanks, Brian. I agree. My experience at UHS parallels your comments. You have the drive to make it happen and that's one of the significant factors in my research of those who create exceptional learning cultures. Best of luck to you.
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I believe there is a large disconnect in healthcare (HC). 1) Nurses do the educating. The focus is for nurses to teach patients and within the nursing world, that is not acknowledged as adult learning. Although there is a large population that train other nurses, they do not acknowledge ATD as a helpful tool. 2) The L&D professionals within HC that do recognize ATD, are often placed low within the organization. Leadership (nurses and providers) education says the way to educate is patient ed
Thank you for this insight. I am so proud of one of my colleagues, Pamela Mann at University Health System, who just earned her APTD. As a presenter at ICE 2019, she shared her success in transforming nursing orientation through teaching nurses the ADDIE model. You are so right about the silos between nursing education and talent development. We definitely have work to do on this.
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Out of curiosity, is Emergency Medical Services represented or accounted for in the Healthcare category?
I'm going to say yes and will confirm with ATD. If you have a great story, please let us know about it. Thanks for asking.
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