Continuing education: Traditional vs. technology-based approaches

Continuing education (CE) is very important for employees if a facility wants to excel. It can boost the confidence of employees, and more satisfied employees are better employees. CE is also a requirement for most certification and licensing venues and is required to assure the individual stays current on new trends, regulations and best practices.

 Some of the benefits of CE for the company are:

  • Employees are up to date on the newest regulations, trends, as well as current and developing issues in their chosen fields that help keep the company growing.
  • Employees bring back what they learn and apply it in the workplace.
  • Employees are re-motivated and re-energized following workshops and conferences which add to productivity in the workplace.
  • Quality of care for those served is enhanced.
  • Ensures the best practices are known, understood and implemented by the employees.
  • A way to develop new skills or knowledge to bring back to the work environment.
  • Promoting and providing for education helps ensure a highly skilled workforce, they bring new ideas and creativity to the company.
  • Companies that invest in the skills development of their employees generally have a higher rate of staff retention.
  • Improves morale and job satisfaction. Happy employees equal a happy workplace (and happy families).
  • Employees who are interested in improving their skills are often perfect candidates for future leadership positions.
  • Helps employees become more proficient in their current position.

Over the past few years, many there has been a tendency to move away from traditional CE, where participants receive education in a classroom type setting with a live instructor/speaker, and toward less traditional means, including webinars, online education and home study. Unfortunately, not all learning can best be served by non-traditional education.

While non-traditional education has a place and can be used to supplement face-to-face education, it should not be the sole source of CE. Staff will be less motivated and learn less if these are the only options available to them. It is easy to become distracted by other things going on while trying to watch a video. There are few opportunities to engage with others or to hold conversations with people. Employees may retain less information in a non-traditional setting. The attendees may not fully understand what is being taught through online education and may not have an opportunity to secure adequate answers to their questions. There will be a tendency to just “let it go” and then they have learned nothing.

Not all non-traditional education is bad. some education can be provided by these means and attendees can learn some from it. However, much more can be gained with a live speaker/teacher and a more traditional education setting. Even children who are home schooled or participate in online schooling, must meet in person with peers for some of their programs and education, as well as for sports and other team type activities.

Benefits of traditional education in a classroom type setting with a live speaker:

  • Opportunity to ask questions and interact with the speaker as well as the attendees and share conversations, ideas and challenges.
  • Opportunity for hands-on education sessions, such as crafts for Activity/Life Enrichment staff, approaches for working with residents who have dementia, virtual reality sessions, programming techniques and ideas, infection control techniques, etc.
  • Better opportunities for demonstration of ideas or best practices
  • Camaraderie built with other attendees.
  • Opportunities to recharge and for remotivation in a setting away from work that cannot be gained through online means.
  • Opportunity to share concerns with others and look for ways to overcome challenges together.
  • Opportunity to meet others who work in the same field with shared experiences.

Investment in CE for staff is essential to retaining the best skills and passions. When there are budget concerns, the tendency may be to make cutbacks in the education area. Staff who are not well educated and up to date on trends may cause the company more problems in the long term. For example, an excellent life enrichment program will help keep the beds filled. Family members and residents who are not happy with the program will talk about it in the community. Nursing staff who are not providing good care and customer service will drive residents away. No matter how nice your community is from a visual standpoint or even if it has the latest state of the art equipment, if the staff do not treat the residents with dignity and respect and provide excellent care, residents will not stay.

Invest in your staff, not just your buildings, or you may find yourself with less revenue coming in over the long run. One of the best ways to invest in your staff is by continuing to educate their minds and spirits.

Debbie Bouknight, BS, AC-BC, ACC, CDP, is Life Enrichment Director at Lexington Medical Center Extended Care, a 388-bed community in Lexington, S.C. She serves on the NAAP Credentialing Center Board (NAAPCC) as the Director of Outreach and Re-certification and on the South Carolina Coalition for Dementia Care Committee. She can be reached at 303-317-5682.



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