Education and Training in Health Care: What Happens When the “Trainers” Leave?

A recent article discussed the importance and outcomes of training staff on dealing with dementia-related behavioral disturbances. Outcomes of a six-week training program for a select interdisciplinary group (trainees), but not all staff, saw a reduction in antipsychotic utilization. Results also indicated that those trained were more comfortable with non-aggressive behaviors, though some remained uncomfortable with physically aggressive behaviors.

Any and every effort to educate is to be applauded. However, we know from years of research that nearly all post-training evaluations are positive, but what we don’t know is what happens after the training? What happens when the “trainers” leave? While this example is from a post-acute environment, the same questions and issues exist in acute care.

Immediately following training, employees have gained knowledge and are more satisfied. But what is done within the organization to continue to train, support and value staff over time? Employees will not learn everything they need to know in one session or in six weeks. Learning should be a continuous process, as there are always new patients/residents, a different disease or diagnoses, new treatments and strategies. Offering ongoing educational programs not only provides information, but is an indication that employees are important and valued.

From an organizational standpoint, training should include all staff, all departments, and all shifts. Every employee in the community is going to come into contact with the residents and should be prepared and knowledgeable. Think of the housekeeper who spends considerable time in a resident’s room – should they not be prepared? Do they not have some information and observations that are valuable? Every person is valuable and has something to share.

I believe that ongoing training is essential for the growth and development of all employees and enhances retention. Routinely scheduled sessions are an opportunity for employees to communicate and share with one another, understand one another’s role and responsibilities, and enhance relationships across disciplines. And for leadership sessions provide the opportunity to assess morale, gather information on staff needs, tap their expertise, garner their commitment, and communicate organizational issues or changes.

The best part of ongoing training is that it can be conducted at no additional cost. There is tremendous knowledge in the staff and managers of every organization, who can share the responsibility. Leadership team members can lead sessions, and rotating the responsibility minimizes the effort and time for each person. Topics can be educational in nature, a discussion of some aspect of the disease or simply to facilitate staff discussion. In fact, leadership teams will find that ongoing training saves time, as routinely scheduled education and communication sessions enhance retention, allowing leaders to spend less time recruiting and hiring.

Think ongoing training, education and communication sessions are not important and not your job? It is your job and the difference it can make is incredible. Two heads are better than one, and what we have experienced is that the inclusion and input of all is truly amazing.

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