Education is a vital to your department’s ongoing clinical performance improvement plans. But the presence of a plan alone isn’t the change catalyst. Through our twenty years of working with large health systems across the country, we have seen that facilities that successfully engage their staff in a new training program have a much higher likelihood of implementing change and positively impacting patient outcomes.
Here are 8 strategies to engage learners in your training program so your staff, patients and facility can receive the benefit you intend.
1) Engage Nurses in the Training Selection Process
Human psychology research proves we are more likely to have a positive response to change when we are involved in creating the solution rather than having that solution dictated to us. In what ways can you engage your staff in your clinical improvement processes? You might try:
- Surveying staff to understand their concerns within your department
- Hosting office hours in which staff can bring improvement ideas to you
- Choosing a champion or two from your team to be involved in any training selection
- Beta testing a new program with those champions
- Using champions to introduce the program to the rest of your staff
2) Lead by Example
“Example is the best precept." ― Aesop
Social proof is a powerful motivator when expecting your staff to try something new. Allocating your time to complete the new training firsthand will demonstrate your commitment to the program. You’ll also be more qualified to answer staff questions that may arise when you introduce the program. Additionally, you’ll be able to share what you enjoyed from the training and what you personally learned. If you position the training as a positive, worthwhile experience, your staff are more likely to mirror your perspective.
3) Introduce the Program Vitals
Humans are more likely to cooperate with a request if they understand the motivation behind it. Introduce your training program to staff in a meeting or a department-wide email explaining:
- Why you sought out a training program. What the problem is you’re trying to solve.
- Why you chose the training program you did.
- What goals the program will help the department accomplish.
- What the details of participation are:
- Who was the program designed for?
- What’s the time commitment involved for participants?
- How will participants digest the training? Online? In-person seminar? In-department meetings?
- When and where will the training be completed? Is there a deadline by which to complete online courses or a date they need on their calendars for an in-person event?
4) Explain Expected Takeaways
Outline what your staff can expect to take away from the training program you plan to implement. Nurses may not be excited to take a refresher course of concepts they learned in school, but they might be intrigued by training topics that enhance their current knowledge or address gaps not covered in traditional schooling like communication and customer service. Does the training cover the basics or get into the specifics and subtleties of clinical care scenarios? Does it cover general concepts or apply case examples to help them implement how to handle risky situations like patients with behavioral health issues or actions to take in an active shooter event? Explaining what concepts will be covered and how they will be taught can intrigue nurses and inspire greater participation.
5) Incorporate Similar Training into New Hire Onboarding
Set a standard of continuous improvement from the point of hire. By including e-Learning in your onboarding process, new staff can internalize that ongoing education is a part of your culture.
6) Encourage Participation as Part of an Industry Certification
Does a majority of your staff pursue an industry certification? Develop a training program that can help them study. For instance, some nurses in the emergency department might strive to become Certified Emergency Nurses. Position your training program as a successful study component for the CENs and offer to pay for the exam if a nurse passes. If your organization offers a salary increase with the certification, you can also leverage this as motivation to complete the training program.
7) Develop a Proactive Strategy for Training Completion
Some organizations run into a time allocation barrier when implementing a new training program. You can overcome this challenge by offering a proactive strategy for staff that outlines how and when you expect them to complete training. Be prepared with your responses to these commons questions:
- “Will I be paid for completion of this training?”
- “Will you be providing dedicated time within my shift for completion without patient responsibilities?”
- “Will you be providing a computer on which I can complete any online training?”
- “Can I complete the training at home and get paid for that time?”
Some organizations inspire nurse involvement in training without the need to provide additional pay for completion. Others have arranged computer labs that nurses can access before or after a shift to allow for training completion away from the demands of patient care. Choose a strategy that fits best with your staff environment and your state’s nursing union requirements, knowing you might have to test a couple options before finding one that fits.
8) Leverage Future Pay Raises Against Compliance
Finally, some organizations find it effective to leverage eligibility for future pay raises based on the completion of mandatory training programs. For instance, your organization might require EMTALA Basics as part of your remediation plan if there was an incident. Non-compliance could negatively impact the following year’s raise eligibility.
While consequential training completion is widely used, this approach can negatively impact the staff perception of the program. It tends to leave nurses feeling that training is a necessary evil, not a positive opportunity for improving their practice.
Through our twenty years of working with large health systems, we have seen that facilities that successfully engage their staff in a new training program have a much higher likelihood of positively impacting patient outcomes and their bottom line. Do you have other strategies that have worked well? Or do you have any stories of what doesn’t work? We’d love to hear from you! Send us your stories and we’ll update this post with your warnings and successes.