How to pick the perfect training program for your healthcare professionals

Written by Briony Frost, Learning & Development Specialist on Tuesday 20th April 2021

You know your team needs training. But not all training providers and programs are created equal. Last week, we shared the benefits of working with specialist learning and development (L&D) teams to maximize your training investment. Once you’ve identified some potential collaborators, it’s time to take a closer look at what should be in the packages your training provider offers. Here are six vital features you should prioritize to select the training that will help your team fulfil their potential as partners in delivering high-quality and effective healthcare to patients.

A needs analysis

It’s tempting to try to save money by asking your training providers to dive straight into program development based on what you already know about your team’s training needs, but it’s often false economy. Allocating part of your budget to a needs analysis can make the difference between creating a successful program with measurable and impactful outcomes aligned to your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs), and producing a product with limited benefit for your learners and organization. Collaborate with your training provider to conduct a thorough needs analysis that encourages both senior managers and team members to reflect on the company’s strategic priorities, the desired role-related knowledge, competencies, and confidence levels, and the current standard of performance. This enables you to verify known knowledge gaps and uncover hidden ones too. You’ll also ensure that you are able to

  • confidently share the same objectives, deliverables, and understanding of what successful training looks like with your learning provider and learners
  • craft clear, measurable learning objectives to drive the design and delivery of a cohesive and comprehensive program
  • streamline provision so that you invest time and money only in what you need
  • make connections with existing training programs and future-proof your provision
  • motivate all members of the team from managers to new starters by getting them involved in defining their needs, goals, and development pathways.

Save money in the short or long term by discussing the level of analysis you need. If you are tackling training in a discrete therapy area or overhauling an existing training program, you may be able to undertake a lighter-touch analysis than if you are dealing with multiple therapy areas or several programs within a broader curriculum.

Upfront intended learning outcomes

Intended learning outcomes (ILOs) can be an afterthought with some training providers, tacked on once all the content has been agreed, and leaving the end goals of training on the side-lines. Make sure any program you invest in defines these upfront as they are essential to ensuring that the training

  • tackles the knowledge, competencies, and confidence gaps identified in your needs analysis so that you know your objectives are being addressed
  • embeds not only need-to-know scientific content but also the relevant skills, behaviours, values, and ethics that your learners need to use to put their learning into practice in their professional roles
  • defines what is acceptable evidence of success and uses this to plan suitable learning experiences, materials, and resources that enable learners to demonstrate they are hitting their targets
  • shares clear expectations and goals with your learners, which enhances the likelihood of learners succeeding, building confidence, and staying motivated.

A good set of upfront ILOs is key to keeping the development of your training program on track, makes it easier to update in future, and to keep it aligned with other programs within your curriculum.

A strong learner journey

Your teams are working hard in a high-pressure and constantly evolving environment. Training time is pressed, no matter how motivated they may be. Make sure any training they undertake is organized around a strong learner journey. We’ll dive deeper into what makes a great learner journey in a forthcoming article, but keep in mind that your team need to be able to

  • easily access and navigate the training program, whether it’s e-learning, an event, a podcast series, a workshop or webinar, or combination of multiple types of learning sessions
  • understand how the training contributes to their professional development and how they get from where they are now to where they need to be in terms of their knowledge, competencies, and confidence
  • direct themselves through the events and resources as is required for, or most suited to, their training needs
  • return to and retrieve essential data, content, and messages to support their communications with other healthcare providers (HCPs) and reinforce their learning.

Beyond the learners themselves, having a strong learner journey for each training program also facilitates updates to content and resources as it is easier to see where and how they fit in, and enables connections to be made with other training programs in the same, or related, therapy areas.

Real-world assessments

Assessment is a great motivator. We’ll explore what distinguishes good assessments from great assessments in a future article, but for now here’s what to look out for. Assessments should

  • test all of your ILOs so that learners are able to demonstrate that they have achieved everything your training was designed to enable them to achieve 
  • reinforce and support the retention of learning
  • encourage learners not simply to recall data, key concepts, and information as is common in the ever-popular multiple choice-style knowledge-check questions, but to apply these to real-world scenarios relevant to their professional practice
  • provide instant and informative feedback so that assessment is not merely a test of learning but a means of continuing to learn from both successes and mistakes
  • provide a benchmark upon which future training needs in this area can build as the clinical landscape, available data, products, devices, and lifestyle management strategies evolve.

There are endless ways for assessment to enhance your training program, whether it is delivered virtually, in person, or in a blended form. It is also a critical part of ensuring you will gather valuable metrics to evaluate the value of the training program to your learners and organisation, helping to inform upcoming choices of training provider, programs, and investments.

Stellar scientific content

Any good healthcare training program must contain high-quality, clinically relevant scientific content and all healthcare training providers expect to deliver that. So how do you know what distinguishes between the good and the really good? Stellar scientific content should

  • improve your learners’ knowledge of disease totality, the clinical landscape and any relevant guidelines
  • enable them to analyse and interpret clinical trial data
  • gain a role-appropriate grasp of the medications, devices, techniques, competitors, and lifestyle management strategies available
  • facilitate connections between their relevant professional skills and the scientific content so they can apply it to their daily practice.

Look out for excellent writing and delivery too, which depends on

  • the accuracy and correctness of the science and the data, in alignment with all regulatory requirements
  • the relevance to the learners’ end needs and the program’s ILOs
  • clear, comprehensible, engaging presentation available in a variety of formats that are accessible to all learners
  • a robust and logical narrative
  • up-to-date and easily updatable content, concepts, and clinical data.

Reliable metrics

Last but not least, metrics matter! Best-in-class training programs gather data throughout their delivery. These should

  • evaluate the success of the training program in terms of learner progression against the ILOs and company KPIs
  • enable learners to feedback on their learning experience
  • provide essential information to feedback to senior managers and demonstrate the value of the company’s investment.

Metric gathering should take a variety of forms so that information can be triangulated to provide a comprehensive picture. They should also combine quantitative and qualitative data so that information is contextualised to support the interpretation of results.

Avoid punitive metrics such as completing training or tasks within a set time frame where this is not essential to the learning itself, deductions of marks for errors, or escalations to a line-manager intervention where employee competence is challenged. These do not facilitate learning, ignore equality- and diversity-related adjustments that may need to be made, and overlook non-training related barriers to success. Instead, select a program that will listen to your learners, enable your team to learn from mistakes, discuss their individual learning needs with line managers and seek help when they encounter difficulties.

OPEN Health’s L&D team brings together unique skill sets and a wealth of healthcare training and communications experience, which means we can offer high-quality, bespoke, self-directed learning programs to our clients. If you would like to hear more about how we collaborate with our clients to design, develop and deliver competitive training programs, please get in touch.

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