Making a Place for Continuous Learning and Development in Healthcare 

Updated on July 23, 2023

Healthcare professionals know that balancing the lingering impacts of COVID-19 with regulatory shifts and technological advances is no easy feat. The lack of supply of healthcare workers, stress and mental health challenges, and the need to adopt new technologies or approaches to patient care have created a need for upskilling and training – despite how difficult it is to find the time to do so. Healthcare organizations need to make a place for continuous learning and development (L&D) to deliver necessary trainings in the most effective way. 

Reframe the Cycle of Learning and Burnout

With pressing patient duties and professional obligations to prioritize, healthcare professionals are often left with little time or energy to pursue training. Nonetheless, most have a desire for development and growth opportunities, so long as the opportunities do not add undue burden to their already strained schedules. It’s a tightrope to balance as training can often contribute to the very burnout that makes employees apprehensive about L&D overall. 

Healthcare organizations must adopt a pragmatic and intentional approach that integrates continuous L&D into routinely scheduled programs. Ideally, a growth opportunity should not feel like an unbeneficial obligation, but should be designed to fit into schedules and delivered in easily digestible formats. Prioritize teaching just one or two skills at a time that can be applied day-to-day, not forgotten a few weeks down the road.

Evaluate Logistical and Emotional Hurdles

Figuring out how to deliver effective trainings without sparking resentment, frustration, or stress is easier said than done. Continuous L&D can be offered in shifts, ensuring ample coverage and minimal disruption to patient care. There should also be different methods of delivery available, such as options for online or hybrid learning, allowing the workforce to rotate through training based on their own preferences and availability.

When teams are being pulled out of training to prioritize other things, it communicates that learning itself is not a priority. Leadership must have a united front when selecting and promoting sessions they intend for the entire workforce to undergo.  Reinforcing that your organization supports ongoing development is critical. Avoid canceling or rescheduling trainings, minimize external distractions during the sessions, and get the full leadership team’s buy-in.

Measure Outcomes and Celebrate Success

Healthcare leaders must both measure the efficacy of new training programs and share its successes to the larger workforce. With this in mind, a few steps leaders can take to ensure the success of a continuous L&D program include: 

  1. Articulate the purpose: Sharing where the organization is going and how training programs are helping it get there will help define the reasons employees should participate in them.
  2. Maintain ongoing communications: Check in with employees at multiple points in the training process to best understand what is working and what isn’t. The success of a program should not be measured in just knowledge retention – that knowledge also must be regularly applied and additive to a skillset. 
  3. Adjust resources and support as needed: No initiative is perfect and there is always room for improvement. What might need to change: time, funding, technology? 
  4. Promote a culture of learning: Foster a culture that values and prioritizes continuous learning. Recognize that professionals are not static employees – they want to grow alongside their career and be able to showcase new skills. 

Taking the jump to commit to continuous learning and development initiatives is also a key step for culture. Recognizing and celebrating the impact is a key element of motivating the workforce and demonstrating the value of L&D. Highlighting “wins” and success stories beyond just data and hard numbers (though those matter, too) can help instill a true feeling of accomplishment and greater ability to serve patients into healthcare professionals. This creates momentum and a desire to engage in future opportunities among employees and teams. 

It may not be a perfect kickoff for the first L&D initiative you try, but testing and learning to gauge what is the most impactful for your organization can help address some of the main barriers that prevent employees from being able to seek the development they want and need. This will all ultimately iterate and improve learning over time, helping the healthcare industry at large attract and retain talent and better react to the challenges of today’s environment and the future. 

Kathy Gersch is CCO of Kotter
Kathy Gersch
Kathy Gersch is CCO of Kotter.