The aspirations of long-term care workers are under more scrutiny than ever before. Career paths seem constantly in flux. Indeed, some would emphasize they should be that way. But one thing stays constant — the need for professional development: what’s important, as well as how and when to get it. Technology can boost careers as never before. Experts offer advice here on how to use it well.
Recent innovations have created myriad ways to marshal the right tech to design a customized career path.
Online resources are not only easily accessible, abundant and timely, they’re also, for the most part, free.
“Web-based learning tools or continuous learning platforms, including blogs, podcasts and webinars, are extremely effective when they can be accessed by clinical providers at their convenience on their computer or mobile device,” observes Kendra Nicastro, director of business development for LeaderStat.
Software and video learning allow intuitive, user-friendly, time-saving ways to quickly identify self-contained learning modules.
“Software that provides continuing education and courses specific to the needs of a particular industry sector, such as post-acute care and skilled nursing, are having a profound impact on professional development today,” says Peter Corless, executive vice president of OnShift.
Many continuing education opportunities today incorporate invaluable information on regulations. There is also a plethora of certificate and degree programs from accredited institutions.
Live streaming events offer a dynamic and stimulating way to engage in interactive learning in a classroom environment — a method that is gaining traction with caregivers and administrative staffers, while offering the economies of scale for providers who need to make such offerings affordable, Corless adds.
The benefits are exponential.
Online learning tech overcomes the biggest obstacles to professional development: costs and time. This is especially true for caregivers in remote areas seeking education from respected institutions, says Corless.
Online learning’s 24-hour accessibility is a big flexibility perk, as is targeted instruction.
“The true benefit from the technology is that nurses are able to continue their education at a time or day that works best for them,” notes Betsy Hardy, RN, vice president of business development for the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services. “The ease of access to training modules is important to provide continued education that is consistent and accessible 24 hours a day. Diversity in training styles also helps overcome learning struggles or language barriers.”
LTC pros can benefit from various tips on how to use tech to their best vocational advantage.
Mike Mutka, CEO of Straightaway Health Careers, recommends that hiring professionals:
Use videos to engage learners and show the realities of the job. The demographics of the workforce are changing and approaches to training need to reflect that.
Train managers on the soft skills of leadership. Too often we hear that they “eat their young” and while that is likely an unintended result of a busy team, nurse leaders need to be reminded of the importance of their interactions.
Use technology to check in with new hires and solicit feedback in fun and engaging ways to ensure responses.
Use technology and reporting to visualize where to spend some time and effort to resolve opportunities before they become issues.
AADNS’s Hardy adds: “Enhanced simulation tools allow students to recreate stressful situations and work through various scenarios without hurting the patient or themselves. As clinicals for nursing students become harder to find, this type of training is very effective.”
Consult with facility managers on the best courses to take that meet career path requirements, as well as those that are free or eligible for tuition reimbursement, adds OnShift’s Corless.
Realize that balance is everything.
Any high-tech solution can be complemented by old-school methods such as book learning. Nicastro and Corless point out that it’s a matter of personal preference.
“I find that the more we use high tech, the more we move away from the bedside and patient,” adds Hardy. “We tend to miss the signs and symptoms early because we rely on technology to tell us rather than the ‘old school’ method of listening to the body and the patients.”
While virtual reality, or “VR,” is a nascent, exciting technology, it’s best to wait a little while until the bugs are worked out, many experts advise.
“VR sounds great, but we have learned that simulations can often cause more confusion than education,” Mutka observes.
Hardy notes that there are few virtual reality LTC applications.
“Virtual reality may move us too far from reality,” she says, adding, however, that “VR is being used in limited areas, including nursing schools, and several nursing boards are reviewing its applications.”
Corless believes VR may have a future role in competency evaluations, and that when combined with artificial intelligence, “will play a larger role in moving toward ‘mastery learning’ and education where ‘return demonstration’ is required.”