Healthcare is an ever-evolving field that must respond quickly to changing science and technology, patient needs, and public health crises. The development of a meaningful training program and strategy is linked to employee retention, competence, reduced burnout, and patient care.
Healthcare Training: An Extraordinary Opportunity
There’s an extraordinary opportunity for training to make positive change in reducing patient deaths, improving employee safety and well-being in addition to retention, while also increasing patient quality care, and fiscal savings. Consider that –
- There are an estimated 250,000 deaths from medical errors annually – with preventable medical errors affecting as many as one in three hospital admissions. To put this into context this makes medical errors the third leading cause of death for adults.
- Building a positive patient experience has the power to increase the quality and continuity of our care. Negative experiences, or gaps in care, contribute to confused and unmotivated patients unlikely to return.
- Frontline caregiver turnover can exceed 100 percent – with recent estimates of Medical Assistant turnover exceeding 50 percent. Caregivers staying within the occupation or organization but changing specialties or locations adds to these costs. There’s new focus on the need for leadership and soft skill training to tackle the barriers to retaining employees, building meaningful careers, and reducing the safety risk and cost of high turnover.
- Further, from a financial perspective, patients who are dissatisfied with their care are unlikely to refer others. In fact, peer reviewed research suggests that just one nurse with a poor attitude can cost an Emergency Department over $250,000 in lost revenues.
- Training can also reduce claims and improve bond ratings. Programs that improve the patient experience, safety, and connected care can increase patient satisfaction scores positively influencing bond ratings and loan interest savings.
- Strong training programs reduce the likelihood of legal claims and financial reserves set aside for lawsuits.
Complex Problems Require Planful Needs Assessment Before Training
These aren’t simple challenges. On top of medical errors, mitigating turnover, and service delivery, the science and practice of healthcare is ever evolving, and involves distinct professions and roles, ranging from frontline caregivers and allied healthcare professionals to nurses and physicians.
While training is a powerful solution, you may feel overwhelmed with where to start and how to build a training program that drives results for all affected caregiving employee groups. That’s why we’re focusing on needs assessment: using data to accurately scope out challenges and training requirements and the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by an organization’s workforce to achieve the requirements.
Training Needs Assessment for Healthcare: Step-by-Step
An effective training needs assessment will help direct resources to areas of greatest demand. Continue reading to learn how to efficiently understand gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and the requirements your team needs for training to reach your intended results. Following this review, we’ve created a simple Excel-based checklist you can edit to guide you through the needs assessment process.
- Define the training goals: Before conducting any needs assessment, it is important to clearly define the goals of the training. What skills or knowledge are you hoping to impart? What specific outcomes do you want to achieve?
- Identify the target audience: Once you have defined your training goals, you need to identify the target audience for the training. Are you training nurses, doctors, or other healthcare professionals? Are you targeting a specific department or specialty?
- Assess the current knowledge, skills, attitudes and mindsets of the target audience: To assess the training needs of your target audience, gather data on what they already know and what skills they already possess. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or interviews. See if there are existing sources of data you can use. Exit interviews, for example, may include feedback on how skills, attitudes, and knowledge influence the decision to leave.
- Prioritize gaps in knowledge or skills.
Based on the data and feedback you just gathered, you can determine the core any gaps in knowledge or skills that need to be addressed through training. Which needs are most urgent and require immediate attention? Would it be helpful to break the training into phases with specific target areas for each?
- Build training content. With information from the assessment process you can begin to build out the training content. Consider appointing content champions that maximize the influence, knowledge, and perspectives of exceptional subject matter experts. We often find a multi-disciplinary task force helpful to build ownership across all stakeholders influenced by the program you create.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the training. After the training has been implemented, how will you evaluate results? Surveys, assessments, retention or promotion rates, or other feedback mechanisms can help and it’s useful to commit to a plan early.
- Plan for transfer of training. Reinforcement and support mechanisms should be put in place to help learners apply their new skills and knowledge on the job. This may include coaching, mentoring, or ongoing performance feedback. If a group of learners are completing a leadership development, or train the trainer program, side-by-side support, coaching, and follow-up support will help learners overcome initial hurdles of putting new skill into practice.
Overlooked barriers to transfer? The climate should support transfer of training by providing opportunities for learners to apply their new skills, recognizing and rewarding the use of new skills, and providing a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
- Consider the climate for transfer. How favorable will the work environment be for trainees seeking to apply their new skills and mindsets post-training? If untrained employees will present a barrier to trainee on-the-job transfer of training, a broader change management plan may be needed.
- Plan for individual differences. Our past experiences, personality, values, knowledge, and innumerable other qualities affect how we learn. Consider gathering feedback on your training plan and materials from a variety of stakeholders that will be affected by the training. Ensure the training experience will be productive and inclusive experience for all employees – including people with disabilities, and a diverse workforce.
Assessments before, and after, training are often helpful to precisely understand individual differences and tailor the training experience. For example, an inclusion and belonging training program could be strengthened by understanding attitudes towards diversity and perceptions of past initiatives. This could guide how employees are placed in sessions. Validated assessments can also guide building diverse groups that maximize strengths, and differences, across members.
- Nudge! Unfortunately, on average, we can forget over 90 percent of what we learn within a week. The good news? Small, realistic to implement nudges can spark behavior change and learning between trainings. What if you sent an email summarizing a new safety process to trainees a few days after the session? Or leveraged a train-the-trainer approach with trainers connecting with trainees for short check-ins in the week following the training.
Successful needs assessment tackles not just gaps in knowledge, but appraises all the barriers we may encounter with learning and behavior change. Need help making sense of everything we covered? We created a simple editable checklist to guide you through the needs assessment process that you can cut, paste, and build to tackle your unique challenges. Need a conversation?