Healthcare Training And Competencies: Is ELearning The Answer?

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Over the past few years, we have worked with various healthcare and social care organisations to upskill their staff and maintain regulatory compliance requirements. With the various financial challenges facing both sectors, workforce development budgets are increasingly constrained and providers have had to adopt innovative methods to meet regulatory requirements. Indeed, some have reluctantly adopted e-learning as a way to immediately meet compliance requirements within increasingly ‘not so deep pockets’. However, some have seen the benefits of developing strategic partnership and include eLearning in their wider organisational learning and development strategies.

Why is continuous training required in healthcare?

Once qualified, healthcare professionals are required to keep up to date with developments in the wider sector. Given the wide breadth of medical conditions and other opportunistic issues, it is essential for healthcare workers to improve their knowledge and continually add to their existing clinical and other skills. Professional organisations such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), General Medical Council (GMC) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) develop Continuing Professional Development (CPD) standards for their registrants to maintain effective and safe practice. This helps to ensure that healthcare professionals continue to improve their skills and competencies post qualification.

Impact of technological advances in healthcare

Healthcare services are constantly evolving, especially with the technological advances over the past two decades. The clinical environment is also evolving, with many patients who previously had life threatening conditions now living longer with reasonably improved quality of life. Healthcare professionals need to keep up to date with research and technological advancements. ‘Best practice’ is also continually evolving, thus even more need for healthcare workers to stay up to date.

Legislative and regulatory requirements

Apart from meeting their professional requirements, healthcare professionals also have responsibilities to ensure that their organisations (through their own practice) stays compliant with regulatory requirements. The healthcare sector is very highly regulated, with failures often resulting in penalties, loss of income or even closure. Following high profile failures in some NHS and private sector organisations, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and commissioners are increasingly scrutinising the adequacy of training provided by healthcare providers.

Traditional training delivery methods

Traditional training, sometimes referred to as ‘classroom training’ or ‘face to face training’ is the preferred method for many healthcare providers. Indeed, many medium to large organisations even have their own ‘training and development’ departments who deliver internal training throughout the organisation. Where required, external training providers are engaged to deliver specialist training. Like many healthcare services, the training budgets have been severely affected, thus leaving many organisations with gaps in knowledge and competencies. Coupled with staff shortages and other challenges, many healthcare providers are now struggling to maintain the necessary skill mix in practice and developing new employees effectively.

There are also many other challenges relating to ‘classroom based training’. Many healthcare workers cannot find time to attend essential training updates to the staff shortages on wards and other clinical areas. The costs of classroom based training courses is also quite high, while also taking staff away from the job and in some cases may involving travel and hotel costs.

Is e-learning the solution for healthcare providers?

E-Learning provides solutions to some of these challenges. Some advantages of e-learning for healthcare organisations include:

  • Cheaper to develop and deploy
  • Easier to implement updates
  • Savings on time spent away from work and other related costs
  • Can be easily tailored to each professional group
  • Can be developed to suit different learning styles

However, it is important to note that e-learning is not a panacea. ELearning also comes with some disadvantages, including:

  • Failure to meet practical training (hands-on) requirements
  • Poorly designed elearning platforms may be rigid or even boring for learners
  • General apathy towards computer-based learning
  • Poor IT skills may hinder the learning experience

Blended learning solutions for healthcare providers

Many healthcare organisations are now embracing blended learning to adequately meeting their training requirements. Blended learning involves partial delivery of the learning via an elearning platform to compliment classroom training. It also involves self-directed learning, which is an essential CPD requirement for healthcare professionals. For example, cardiopulmonary resuscitation training requires learners to have an adequate understanding of current guidelines, anatomy and physiology and practical, hands on skills to safely and effectively manage deteriorating patients. Using blended learning, the guidelines and anatomy and physiology sections can be delivered via an interactive elearning portal, and the practical session delivered afterwards. Learners will be assessed and certified for the e-learning, then attend a shorter participatory practical session for skills assessment.

Blended learning is thus a hybrid solution that gives healthcare providers the best of both worlds. Recent advances in the development of learning management systems enables the delivery of highly interactive multimedia functions on various platforms make e-learning more accessible and engaging for learners.

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