Learning and Development in Healthcare During the Pandemic

After nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, life in the healthcare industry remains a relentless barrage of intense challenges. Every day is spent in the trenches dealing with urgent needs, and everyone from physicians to nurses to support staff is monopolized by the need to respond to spur-of-the-moment, day-to-day obstacles. There’s staffing to manage, safety measures to figure out, conflict over vaccinations to sort through, and variants to account for. And of course, there are always more patients to care for. 

If you’re in healthcare, this is hardly breaking news. Yes, you know that COVID-19 means there are (a lot of) cascading issues to navigate; that’s the new normal. You also know that (a) it’s an untenable situation, and (b) it can’t be normalized for long.

This is the big picture challenge healthcare leaders now face—how to negotiate the hurdles of the here-and-now while still plotting a path toward the horizon. It’s a delicate but necessary balancing act–because while leaders always have to address today’s problems, healthcare organizations can’t move forward if they don’t look ahead. 

First and foremost, that means taking care of your team. You need to make sure they’re equipped to overcome today’s uncertainties, ensure morale is where it needs to be, and prepare your best and brightest for future leadership roles.

A good administrator knows all this, but it’s easier said than done. Focusing on anything while in the eye of the COVID-19 hurricane feels daunting, but building and prioritizing strong healthcare L&D programs–especially for healthcare administrators, nurses, and physicians; and especially now–can pay huge dividends. By reaffirming your commitment to personal and professional growth, you mitigate fatigue, stave off burnout, and create an atmosphere that minimizes turnover and staff shortages. 

Tips for Learning and Development in Healthcare

Here are some helpful tips to help you enhance and augment employees’ professional development in healthcare.

1. Survey your employees and clinicians.

The reality of COVID-19 is that healthcare professionals barely have enough time in the day to do their job, let alone invest in healthcare professional development. Consider using simple pulse surveys to get in tune with your employees’ needs and gain an understanding of what resources they require to better excel in their current role. And remember: employees still have a desire to grow professionally even if they have suppressed their career aspirations because of COVID-19. So, ask them: What’s next for their career journey? And what tools do they need to get there?

2. Build interdisciplinary commitment and alignment.

While clinical and non-clinical employees have varying needs, it’s important that there’s an overarching alignment from the top down. Leaders within the organization (from human resources to IT to physician services and nurses) need to work together to build a culture of learning and show a united commitment to ongoing education–no matter the circumstances.

As an example: you can demonstrate commitment by partnering across disciplines to support leadership development for nurse managers, physicians, and ancillary managers. (We saw this work recently when a large health system in New Jersey launched a dynamic interdisciplinary leadership development program.)

3. Keep it simple.

There are not enough hours in the day to do everything. As you develop plans, put yourself in your team members’ shoes. For frontline workers, patient care is always a priority–and right now everything requires more time. With that in mind, consider healthcare professional development strategies that can yield big results with minimal investments. Use concise classes and micro-learning to help your team build skills, and opt for short-term certifications with real-world applications in lieu of long-term programs steeped in theory.

4. Don’t do it alone.

Rather than tap into your own resources, have your L&D and Professional Practice leaders find external providers to complement their internal efforts. Allowing third-party providers to do the heavy lifting (especially now) is a great way to have consistent development opportunities for employees and clinicians. There are experienced providers that offer access to best-in-class programming to upskill and reskill employees with no initial investment to stand up access to programs. These simple partnerships represent meaningful ways to show commitment without overburdening internal development teams.

Whatever you do, you can’t do nothing. These may be simple strategies for talent development in healthcare, and they may be actions you’re considering already, but in times of confusion, it can be all too easy to delay or overlook simple, tried-and-true solutions. 

In other words: it’s not enough to just diagnose a problem–eventually, you have to take action. Maybe you have a clear first step in mind already, maybe you need to experiment, or perhaps you need to connect with development providers and build a tailored solution. Whatever you opt for, remember: when you give your employees the tools and support they need to grow and thrive, you put their careers (and your organization) back on the road to good health.

By Jamila Winder; Vice President, Business Development and Partnerships, Healthcare at Emeritus


Partnering for Learning and Development in Healthcare

Schedule a meeting with Emeritus Enterprise to learn about how you can partner with us to launch learning and development in healthcare for your team or organization. We would love a chance to review our online employee training programs with you!

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