August 2020
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TD Magazine

Online Training, Stat

Friday, July 31, 2020

The pandemic pushed UCHealth to develop an accelerated plan to move critical training online.

Consider this scenario: It's 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, and COVID-19 is surfacing in major populations across the US. The training director at a hospital receives an email from the chief information officer stating: "If you haven't already, please start thinking about moving your IT training away from classroom training."


That's what happened at UCHealth, a network of hospitals, clinic locations, and healthcare providers that extends throughout Colorado, southern Wyoming, and western Nebraska.

Even talent development professionals not working in a healthcare setting likely received similar emails from their organizations' leaders. And as many of you know, in a large organization, change moves slowly. Usually committees and other decision makers must review even small variations—not to mention the major transformation required to respond to stay-at-home and social distancing orders.

But everything changed in an instant with COVID-19. Many working in the talent development field were asking: What do we do now? That question is always daunting, but during a pandemic, it is downright nerve-racking. Here is UCHealth's story.

Learning pre-pandemic

In healthcare, especially after implementing an electronic medical record system, most training takes place face to face, which is one of the most expensive training options available. The UCHealth training team of 19 taught more than 44 classes weekly at six different sites for the electronic medical record system and another 10-plus classes weekly for vendor training. That required a multitude of resources, room availability, and costly travel reimbursement because not all UCHealth's sites are in close proximity.

To help reduce the volume of face-to-face training, the training team sought to change a few of the higher attended courses to virtual instructor-led training, which helped decrease travel expenses. We also started developing role-based and specialty modules that nurses and providers could complete online in less than two hours. Identifying those new ways to address training costs became the tipping point for what was to come.

The training team's vision and goal for fiscal year 2021 was to revolutionize the way UCHealth conducts training. For starters, we wanted to reduce the face-to-face training options to only classes that created a high impact for the end user. The remaining face-to-face classes included all provider (medical doctor) courses, family practice and specialty training, and inpatient and outpatient nurse training, because learning for those groups involves a lot of hands-on skills assessments.

Further, reducing travel costs for training was another key goal. Mergers and acquisitions are common in healthcare, and UCHealth has experienced significant growth during the past five years. We needed to be able to keep trainers in their home office locations and decrease site-to-site travel, which could entail two to three hours of travel plus hotel and mileage costs.

We also wanted to enable learners to lead their own training needs and goals. In the past, the training team controlled registrations, but our goal was to have all employees find and self-register for the classes they needed. Giving up control was at first difficult; however, it has enabled us to free up two training coordinators who are now focusing on mission-critical goals versus administrative work. It also has enabled everyone in the organization to take charge of their own learning.

To modernize access to the learning offerings, we developed learning avatars for all learner roles. Each avatar contains information about the learner, such as class completions, areas of struggle based on reports from the electronic medical record system and the learning platform's competency training reports, and contact notes after each call or coaching session. The data helps trainers move to a coaching role to help the organization achieve efficiencies in all roles.

Finally, we had been developing online competency modules for new hires in clinical roles who already had experience with the electronic medical record software UCHealth uses. For those modules, we determined the key information each role needed to know to do their job and included that in the competency assessment. We then followed up with online videos and coaching sessions for the one-off matters they may need to know later. The result reduced each role's training time from eight hours to less than two hours.

Then, the pandemic

Within five hours of receiving the email from the chief information officer, the IT training leadership team developed a plan to move all new-hire training and then all electronic medical record and vendor training to an on-demand option that the training team could assign via the existing learning management system. To develop the plan, the leadership team first identified five focus areas: on-demand training, virtual labs, training coordination, training readiness, and communication.

Listed under each focus area was the work the training team needed to complete and the lead for each task. For example, work related to the on-demand training focus area included:

  • Record all new-hire training and then the remaining classes needed for the electronic medical record training and other IT applications.
  • Create a learning guide on which of the recording software's features the trainers could use to ensure module consistency.
  • Schedule recording times for the trainers, which included identifying hardware requirements, designating room locations, and determining travel requirements.
  • Develop scripts for the modules, ensuring that the recordings were 15 minutes or shorter in length.

A team lead worked with the credentialed trainers to break down their normal four- to eight-hour training sessions into bite-size modules. Afterward, the trainers recorded their modules. The multimedia
team then wrapped a branded design shell around each of the modules to create a consistent look and feel.

With the pandemic, the training
team also had to quickly develop training content that only comprised learning modules for shadowing and documenting for nurses who were being redeployed to other units. Many of the nurses were brought on as helpers, so we determined that they only needed about 40 percent of the training that a new onboarding nurse required. With already recorded training in bite-size modules, the turnaround to create each module for the redeployed nurses was less than one hour. Previously, that would have taken weeks or months to complete because we would have needed to start from scratch to develop each module.

In less than five days, the training team recorded more than 75 modules within 15 different applications, and new-hire training ran on March 16, 2020, without any problems.

The first module walks learners through course expectations and how to access various resources. The modules contain interactivity where the end user can actively type into selected areas in the electronic medical record while following along with the training. That enables learners to practice multiple times while learning the system's functionality. The second phase for the modules will include an evaluation system that will measure learners' competency before and after they complete exercises.

Communication for this training redevelopment was key. We collaborated with HR to create a guide for all new hires and transferring staff that outlined step by step what users should expect from the online training.


Virtual labs

To bolster the training offerings, we also started providing virtual lab sessions via Microsoft Teams. Each trainer was assigned one or more applications or roles within the organization—such as inpatient nursing, outpatient nursing, anesthesia, and providers—that they would support. Virtual labs assist with two different training scenarios.

In one scenario, an employee can schedule a 50-minute "help in the moment" session to ask a trainer about an application he is struggling with and walk through workflows or exercises with the trainer. Those sessions enable the training team to support newly hired staff with application overviews, address unique and frequently asked questions, and offer retraining if needed. Lab topics include patient movement, intravenous pump instruction, and ambulatory rehabilitation.

In the second scenario, virtual labs are part of the onboarding process. New staff complete a four- to six-hour virtual lab training during which a trainer walks through workflows and answers questions and then assigns the learner on-demand modules for review and practice. In that scenario, trainers conduct full training virtually and share control of the virtual lab with the learner so that she can demonstrate her knowledge of the topic.

Strengthening trainers' skills

To make sure that our trainers-turned-coaches were ready for this change, the training team developed the Pod Strong program through which each trainer was assigned different application disciplines (pod) and tasked with becoming an expert in that area. Trainers also worked on boosting their skills in coaching, design, troubleshooting, and specific Microsoft Office products such as Teams.

We also developed a resource site for coaches that lists the members of each pod and where coaches can download the training materials they need. In addition, the site included a list of mentors—who have proven proficiency within the application and role—who could help answer coaches' questions. The end goal is to have skilled, agile teams that work at the intersection of technology and patient care promoting efficiency and productivity.

More to come

The feedback we have received for the implemented changes has been phenomenal. In the healthcare world, mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships happen daily. Our new onboarding hospitals and clinics—as well as managers who are hiring new employees during the pandemic—have expressed how appreciative they are for the training team being flexible and supportive when things needed to change in an instant. In addition, external clinics that have partnered with UCHealth report that we instantly made their lives easier; the changes enabled them to hire staff when needed and quickly train and redeploy someone.

As of June 1, we have had more than 2,500 employees and affiliates complete on-demand modules and attend virtual sessions. Trainers accustomed to training in face-to-face classrooms have quickly adapted, and some have become advocates for this new way of training.

Since the initial launch, we have added more interactivity to the online training and more explicit directions on how to log into the training environments to practice as well as broken down a few of the modules into smaller sections so that learners can use them as review modules after onboarding. Our training design and development offerings are significantly easier and more streamlined. This is only the beginning of revolutionizing training for UCHealth.

During this time, the call to action for talent development professionals is to constantly seek out different modalities to offer training. Be proactive about changing the way you work and deliver talent development solutions so you can meet the short-term challenges your organization faces, as well as be prepared to address long-term workforce needs.

By recognizing talent development's value in an ever-changing world, we can improve training and development options not only during a pandemic but in all situations.

About the Author

Kelley Williamson is the director, IT at UCHealth, a large hospital system located in Colorado. At UCHealth, Williamson has a team of 65-plus training and support members who focus not only on the Electronic Medical Record system but also on all IT training requests. At UCHealth, Williamson has been responsible for revolutionizing training, and this has included retraining of staff, movement of staff to coaching role versus delivery roles, moving of all training to a remote model, using new tools to support one source of truth and quicker onboarding while training and supporting a quickly growing healthcare organization.

Williamson has been with UCHealth for 16-plus years, and the roles that she has held have been the director, IT; HR manager; business partners and manager of learning and development. Her previous experience encompasses being a director of associate development at Expanets, manager of learning and development at RELERA, and director of sales and marketing at DLC & Associates.

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