Proactive Learning Brings Healthy Results: The Drive to Deliver High-Quality, Patient-Centered Care and Create Great Patient Experiences Propels One Healthcare System to Stress Every Detail of Workforce Training and Development

By Harris, Paul | Talent Development, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Proactive Learning Brings Healthy Results: The Drive to Deliver High-Quality, Patient-Centered Care and Create Great Patient Experiences Propels One Healthcare System to Stress Every Detail of Workforce Training and Development


Harris, Paul, Talent Development


It's not unusual to hear corporate training managers speak of learning as a competitive factor that helps determine the ultimate success or failure of the business. That's how they see it at Memorial Health System in Springfield, Illinois, where pursuit of excellence is as fierce as it is for any global competitor.

Take clinical training, for example. A popular training tool for hospitals is the simulated patient room where sophisticated mannequins mimic patient response to procedures and stressful situations. At Memorial Health System, such learning events don't just focus on technical skills. Under a federal grant with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, which involves the Department of Defense TeamSTEPPS curriculum, such learning events also teach communication.

"It's imperative that when a code happens, the medical staff communicates well and has successful outcomes," says Aimee Stash, system administrator of Organization Development. To fully exploit the learning events, the simulated patient environments offer multiple perspectives of the episode, such as the effects on a concerned family member seated beside the bed. "It's exciting to see how behavior changes based upon this type of learning," she says.

Stash says the example underscores an important credo within the learning department of the 4,500-employee health system: "It's about being able to connect to strategy so that we can deliver the education that the organization needs to meet its objectives," she says.

Doug Rahn, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the 112-year-old organization, is equally proud of the Clinical Simulation Center. "It has changed the way we interface with the community," he reports. That's because it's used for training both internal and external healthcare personnel in quasi-live environments. Participants include area colleges and the Air National Guard, just for starters. Of course, improved patient care is the ultimate goal.

And Rahn has plenty of reasons to be proud of his learning departments. An impressive list of recent learning initiatives is producing benefits throughout the organization.

One of them is called the "Great Patient Experience Retreat." It was an offsite educational event staged throughout September 2009 to underscore the roles of employees in providing great patient experiences. The entire staff attended the 90-minute learning events led by senior leadership throughout a two-week period.

Each education session focused on two required practices introduced to ease the anxiety of patients and their family members. One, called "Greet and Feet," calls for employees to make eye contact whenever they are within 10 feet of a person and to personally greet them when they are within five feet.

The second practice is a specific protocol to use when interacting with customers to decrease their anxiety. The instruction continues to be reinforced in the "New Employee Onboarding" program and other occasions, and patient satisfaction surveys and other measurement tools attest to its effectiveness.

Patient satisfaction is clearly behind another approach at Memorial: Every patient must be visited by a nurse at least once per hour throughout the day and by a unit manager once per day. Outpatients must also be visited regularly in waiting areas and be asked five specific questions regarding their treatment. The effectiveness of the year-old programs is measured by patient satisfaction surveys, decreasing fall rates, call light usage, and other indicators.

Yet another initiative involves the facility's "New Leader Onboarding" program. Stash says she became concerned last year about declining retention rates for newly hired leaders within the organization. Exit interviews revealed that many were choosing to remain with the system but were avoiding leadership roles.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Stash's team developed a new leadership program to acclimate individuals to the organization. …

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