How to train professionals who work on their feet?

I participated in a meeting yesterday in which the prospective client is wrestling with some knotty training issues.

They are a firm which provides health care, with employees who are on their feet during their work day, attending to patients.

Like most organizations today, they are concerned about the cost to the organization of taking people out of the production role for any length of time.  Traditional instructor-led training creates staffing issues on the floor, and appointment unavailability in the clinic.  Unlike many of our financial services clients, moving training to the desktop isn’t an obvious solution – to the extent that doctors and nurses HAVE desktops, they are not places at which these individuals spend a lot of time!

As electronic health records are implemented in health care organizations, more of these folks do have computers or tablets—and a need for training in their use!  So this organization is wondering – does it make sense to move some training to the tablet?

We think it does, but that there are some principles which need to guide this transition:

  1. Putting references online (just in time learning) is perhaps the most direct path to a quick win.  Healthcare professionals are already  accustomed to looking up drug interactions and dosage indications online – structuring organizational references so that they are easily accessible from the charting tablet will likely drive more effective usage.
  2. On-line training still takes learner time.  If it matters to the organization that training happens, it matters to schedule it at times learners can reasonably participate, and to compensate learners for that time.
  3. On-line training takes space. It’s unrealistic to expect learners to be able to concentrate on their training if they are sitting in  the break room.  Some learners may welcome the opportunity to do their training in the quiet and comfort of home. Others may have small children or other competing responsibilities at home and need to have access to a conference room or some other space at work. Counting on learners to use the space provided on trains or busses during their commute is a risky move—especially if most drive themselves to work!

Given these principles, we recommend implementing these strategies to hurdle training obstacles:

  1. Structure training as a process, over time, in small chunks.  A doc who has brought the tablet home after a full day in the office to catch up on her charting is not going to sit through a 1 hour e-learning module.  But she may be willing to knock off an activity which asks 5 minutes of her attention to an article or some other content, followed up by 10 minutes of answering questions about it.
  2. Keep the training as close to the task as possible. If you are training on use of an EHR, make sure there’s a “sandbox” version of the system for learners to experiment in (and that their login credentials work!)
  3. Recognize the training effort.   Use a system which makes tracking learner progress effortless, and make it clear to the learners that people who matter are noticing their efforts.