How to do it... Professional development

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1. It begins with a vision.

“Leaders need to look at professional development for their employees as part of their core principles and values,” says Martie Moore, RN, Medline's chief nursing officer. 

“When the communication and action show that an organization believes in the development of their greatest resource — their people — a cultural transformation occurs.”

For starters, leaders need to be clear on their goals for providing training, Moore says, noting the main categories of learning: mandatory education (for compliance and survey readiness); professional development (the foundation of a learning environment); and professional advancement (designed to help staff, especially nurses, improve their skills).

All good intentions are worth little without a plan. David Wilkins, chief marketing officer at HealthcareSource, observes that providers often “fail to develop an overall strategy and instead treat each specific training need as a one-off.”

“Training should help them become more competent at relevant clinical skills or relevant behavioral skills such as communication,” he says.  

2. While front line staff education is critical, many often overlook managers' professional development needs. Peter Corless, executive vice president at OnShift, suggests administrators ask peers what worked well for them.

Wilkins notes that there are plentiful courses that can help with core tasks around general management and leadership training.

“Top-tier [leadership management system] providers typically offer these kinds of titles either pre-integrated or pre-packaged or via integrations,” he adds.

3. Well-planned and conceived professional development can go far in helping today's long-term caregiver succeed as a well-rounded participant in an environment many perceive as chaotic.

“Don't just provide technical training,” says Corless. “Training in interpersonal skills, cultural diversity and leadership help to create a more dynamic, inclusive and productive work environment for employees, as well as residents and their family members.” 

Adapting to the unrelenting pace of change that results in new processes, procedures and clinical best practices “requires caregivers to adopt the mindset of a lifelong learner by recognizing that current knowledge and best practices are temporary and that a key job requirement is to constantly learn new skills and acquire new knowledge,” Wilkins observes. 

Team-based care also is requiring new kinds of abilities like strong communication and listening skills, he adds. 

4. Make staff development a priority, even amid shrinking budgets.

“Many times, when financial decisions are being made, education dollars are the first to be reduced or eliminated. In some accounting systems, these hours are even labeled as nonproductive time,” Moore says. “I would encourage leaders to rethink this.”

She cited a recent study demonstrating that hospitals nationwide could have avoided almost 2,000 patient deaths if medical staff and patients had communicated better.

Corless believes staff development has a high return. 

“Employees value employers who are willing to invest in keeping their skills relevant and up-to-date and are more likely to stay with that employer,” Corless says. “They also become better at their job and provide greater value.”

5. Chaotic schedules  demand 24/7 professional development opportunities. 

“Training needs to be available whenever and wherever a learner needs it so they can grow their knowledge and skills base on their own time,” says Wilkins.