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Educating AND training for safety

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Time after time, I visit with long-term care professionals about their safety and security program, and inevitably, the topic turns to training. In these conversations, it always amazes me how frequently we use the terms “education” and “training” in the same breath, and treat them as if they mean the same thing. In reality, they don’t.

First and foremost, we all agree that learning is important in every facet of our jobs, and your safety and security program is a perfect example of how critical learning is. Properly educated and trained staff will be well prepared to save lives and protect residents, visitors and each other.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s agree that we define learning as an observable change in behavior. And in order for that behavior change to occur and to be retained, we have to both educate our employees AND train them.

In providing training in the safety and security arena, we can rely on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning:

  • Cognitive domain (knowledge)
  • Psychomotor domain (skills)
  • Affective domain (attitude)

Each domain represents a progressive elevation within the learning continuum, and each must be recognized before moving on to the next.

The Cognitive Domain

The cognitive domain represents knowledge. As I said earlier, education and training are similar, but much different. We educate the mind; we train the hands.

In the cognitive domain, we educate the employee’s minds on the facets of safety and security. Let’s use fire extinguisher training as an example. It would be very easy to teach every employee how to use a fire extinguisher and just leave it at that. A child can be trained to regurgitate the P-A-S-S acronym.

In the cognitive domain, we introduce the student to the classes of fire we might encounter, the parts of the fire extinguisher, how to properly and safety carry the extinguisher from point A to point B, operating techniques and more. Before they ever pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger and sweep the base of the fire, they have and understanding of the basics of fire behavior, and how the extinguisher works. We have educated their minds.

The Psychomotor Domain

The next level, the psychomotor domain, involves practical skills development—in other words, it is competency-based. Our employees, with a cognitive understanding of the fire extinguisher, are now ready to have their hands trained in the proper use of the extinguisher. And this training is repetitious on purpose: Repetition builds competency, and you want the right skills to become habits.

Before long, the proper use of the safety device will become second nature. Think about driving your car. When you come to a stop sign, you don’t consciously think, “now I must take my foot off the accelerator, bring it over to the brake pedal, and gently depress the brake pedal until my car comes to a complete stop.” Welcome to your subconscious mind.

The Affective Domain

While the cognitive domain deals with knowledge and the psychomotor domain deals with skills, the affective domain deals with attitude. Although attitude has many definitions, most seem to involve measuring people, issues, objects, etc. along a dimension ranging from positive to negative. 


Steve Wilder


Steve Wilder


Steve Wilder, CHSP, STS, is president and chief operating officer of...