One of the things my organization has always struggled with is the concept of professional development. Of course we require the physicians, nurses, and other licensed professionals to attain the required hours of continuing education in their respective fields. For all the other disciplines where it is not mandatory, we tend to do a relatively poor job.
Case in point: physicians and nurses who transition from clinical practice to administrative positions are no longer granted continuing education time or funding. Although we’re required to keep licensure, it’s up to us to do it on our own.
Those of us in the IT realm have come up with creative ways to earn our hours, such as attending sessions at our vendors’ user group meetings that have been granted continuing medical or nursing accreditation. Others teach medical students and residents or simply complete online continuing ed classes. While that meets the letter of the law, I’m not sure it does much for us as far as professional development.
Being a CMIO, CMO, or medical informaticist requires skills we weren’t born with. It is important to keep up with the constantly changing environment in which we work. It’s critical that people operating in those roles be allowed time and funding to attend formal programs to enhance their knowledge of healthcare IT, software, change management, conflict resolution, process improvement, and the many other disciplines that make the difference between successful projects and failures.
Considering this, it was a rare treat when I had the opportunity recently to attend formal training with our vendor. My last “official” training on our primary system was at least five years ago, and I must say that at that time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It isn’t as if I’ve had no training since then, but the training that I’ve been able to attend has been very focused – around specialties that are being deployed, planned upgrades, and of course Meaningful Use. There hasn’t been much of an opportunity to really look at the EHR product as a whole and how it’s implemented in our hospital.
As I sat in the training center surrounded by soon-to-be new users, I enjoyed seeing their eager faces and lack of cynicism. It was fun to be the grizzled veteran in the bunch. We went through the applications from the ground up and what I learned was surprising.
Although we are among some of the most robust users on the company’s client list, there is still so much that we’re not using. I quickly learned of a handful of features that could make our providers’ lives easier and also some that would ease the burdens of configuration maintenance. It was also good to network with medical leaders of organizations who are late adopters. They have a very different view of things than those of us who are used to being on the cutting edge, and our after-class conversations were full of great ideas.
It really caused me to think about how we missed finding these items over the past several years. I’ve decided it was because the team was thinking like the IT equivalent of physician subspecialists rather than as primary care specialists. To put it in clinical terms: while we were focused on the musculoskeletal function of the wrist, we missed hearing about the latest and greatest strategies for health promotion and disease prevention. When faced with new features, we may not have understood how we could benefit from them, so we passed them by and never came back to them (usually because our team is running 90 miles an hour with dozens of competing priorities, so I completely understand how it happens.)
I’m encouraging our leadership to plan to fund opportunities for various team members to attend formal training sessions at least every few years so that we don’t find ourselves missing out on features or workflows that could have been beneficial. At the same time, I’m hoping that the experience will give concrete proof to the hospital’s administrators as to why it is important to facilitate learning opportunities for its medical leaders.
Have a great idea about professional development? E-mail me.