The University of North Carolina Health Care system provides treatment to tens of thousands of patients throughout the southeastern United States every year. UNC Health Care provides offerings that range from infant health to senior care, from substance abuse prevention to eating disorders management, and from clinical treatment to trauma and critical care surgery. This keeps many of the more than 5,000 UNC Health Care employees working busy, strenuous schedules. Thus, learning programs have to be tailored to their considerable time constraints, said Sandy Tolson, manager of the training and user support organization within UNC Health Care’s information services division (ISD).
“Our philosophy in ISD training is to make sure each customer is equipped to do their job in a way that helps them,” she said. “We have to be available when our customers are available. We have to be on the floor with them, giving them the training they need when they can’t come into a class. We have to balance the required user-readiness activities against the need to be patient and honor a workweek schedule that, is in some respects, regulated.”
“One of the dilemmas we face is that we can’t just say to a nurse, ‘You have to show up at this class,’” said Jan Singley, liaison to UNC Health Care’s vice president of human resources. “If she’s got a critical patient and something’s wrong, she’s not going to leave that patient. If a new procedure or policy comes along, the department of nursing education, practice and research will offer something like 60 classes and say, ‘Get yourself to one of them.’ It’s instructor-led so that you can have questions, especially when it’s on a new policy, procedure or documentation. We would like to move to a place where more of that can be done online, but that’s a huge jump for our organization.”
Developing and delivering professional education programs for thousands of employees across a wide range of competencies and skill sets in a very decentralized organization (UNC Health Care has 19 training departments) presents a substantial challenge. To supply learning to such a disparate workforce, UNC Health Care has turned to technology: More than 600 traditional classroom-based, computer-based and online programs—from “Antidepressant Use in the Elderly” to “Zoll Medical Corporation’s Defibrillator”—have been blended together on Pathlore’s learning management system (LMS) to produce a training suite as diverse as its users. “I have responsibility to each of those groups, depending upon what it is they need to learn,” Tolson said. “Anyone who wants to get system access, a user ID and password to one of the clinical information systems—where training is mandatory—has to come through my group.”
Since implementation, the 1,700 nurses and 1,800 physicians and resident staff at UNC Health Care have shaved off 60 percent of the time they previously spent enrolling and participating in courses. “Now that we have the LMS, we have a better tool to deliver this consistent educational information through online courses,” Tolson said. “To give people the ability to log on to the LMS and learn how to use it, a lot of people will have to get over their fear of using a computer. While we have physicians, Ph.D.s and all kinds of educated people here, we still have a huge diversity of computer literacy in the working population.”
Singley, who deals with learning around compliance and organizational policies, said that different departments have had varying levels of success with the system. “Some of them are way ahead of the learning curve on this, and some of them are shaking their heads and looking around,” she said. “It’s not a universal thing. With the amount of house staff and attending physicians that we’ve got, (Tolson) and her training group face an incredible job.”
However, Tolson is confident that as more programs are moved online, more UNC Health Care employees will benefit from the accessibility provided by the LMS. “With the LMS, we’ve got more tools at our disposal than we had before. Where there’s an interest in ensuring a certain level of mastery to satisfy some criteria of learning, we can now add that to an online course. That’s much easier to deliver and get results from than what we previously had to do with manual hand-written tests. Secondly, because we’re now using an application database to deliver, record and track all this information, we have the data to do a report. Those things have helped us tremendously with monitoring where we are with training.”
–Brian Summerfield, email@example.comFiled under: Technology