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Scheduling a far-flung, busy, sometimes reluctant staff for required annual training can be one of the most challenging tasks for a home health educator. Tying the training to an event that staffers can easily remember and look forward to can help boost participation — and compliance.
HealthReach HomeCare and Hospice in Water ville, ME, saw dramatic improvements after rescheduling mandatory training to tie in with staff birthdays. Compliance at its three offices in central Maine are in the 90% to 100% range, up from 75% or less before the birthday mandatories began a year and a half ago, says Annette Munn, RN, a HealthReach staff educator. She says she and other members of HealthReach’s quality improvement team, which included educators Judy Marshal and Terri Whalen, both RNs, started with the same dilemma faced at most agencies.
"Of course, because of how we work, a lot of the staff couldn’t come in because of patient needs, so it was always that we were out of compliance," she explains. "So we sat down and brainstormed: How can we get this so we can get the staff in and get the required training done?"
The solution: Change the sessions from quarterly to monthly and tie them to each employee’s birth month. Educators hold three a month, one in each of Health Reach’s offices. Partici pants get a reminder the month before and an invitation two weeks before the session. During the 2½-hour training, educators serve a birthday cake.
At the same time, the format of much of the training has been changed to emphasize interactive discussions rather than a didactic lecture style. The combination has been a great success, says Jackie Fournier, RN, MSCS, a hospice nurse and director of clinical support for HealthReach.
"Staff went above and beyond simply looking at this as a talking head approach that they have to do once a year," Fournier says. "They actually see this now as a learning opportunity. There’s not the hesitation or reservation about attending."
She says the invitations are nice change from regular staff memos or E-mails. "This is much more personalized, and we have the birthday cake. It’s really made as a celebratory thing; at the same time, obviously, it’s a mandatory thing."
The educators began by obtaining a list of birth dates from the agency’s human resources department and breaking out staff by birth month. A monthly session is held in the Waterville office and in the agency’s offices in Augusta and Skowhegan. Each is held a different week and on a different day of the week. "The second week of the month it’s on Tuesday, the third week of the month it’s on Wednesday, and the fourth week of the month it’s on Thursday," Munn says. "We’re trying to take everybody’s schedule into account."
The offices are about a half-hour apart, so it’s to employees’ and supervisors’ advantage to attend the one held on-site, Fournier says. All staff who expect to miss all three sessions during their month because of vacation or other conflicts are asked to attend the one held the month before.
"We want to keep people in compliance," Munn says.
A notice is printed a month in advance and posted on the bulletin board showing the names of all employees participating in the next month’s training. The personal invitations go out two weeks before the sessions, and notices are sent to the employees’ scheduling coordinators. That solved another previous problem, in which staff would forget to tell their scheduling coordinators about the training, Munn says. "It’s also expressed to the employees the importance of being on time, because the training is 2½ hours, and it’s 2½ hours straight ahead," she says.
New teaching approach
The session covers all the necessary mandatories — bloodborne pathogens, infection control, exposure control plan, hazardous waste control, confidentiality, driving safety, back safety, emergency preparedness, and staff safety in the home.
This year, Munn says, educators have worked to make the presentations more engaging. "When we talk about bloodborne pathogens, we’ve printed out questions that reflect some of the things in the policy. There will be questions such as, What is hepatitis B?’ The staff really likes that a lot. They like that interaction."
Videos are used for segments on driving safety and other topics. A crisis response plan is detailed for each office. Munn says she points out the importance of the information to employees’ own safety. "We always ask them to tell us why they’re there and people still say it’s because they have to be," she says. "But we remind them that it’s to keep them safe as well as their patients and their families and significant others."
The expanded number of sessions has had a beneficial effect on how the information is presented, Fournier says. "It’s forced us to be more concise with the information. Now we don’t have the luxury of doing this in four hours. We asked ourselves how we can be more efficient. Having it not be just didactic has led to more audience participation. People are obviously going to retain that information more in terms of adult learning principles."
She does point out, though, that the appeal of birthday cake served with coffee during the break (bagels and coffee are substituted for some early morning sessions) can’t be underestimated.
"With home health cutting costs, it was thought, well, maybe we don’t need a birthday cake," Fournier says. "They said, Don’t you dare cut our cake out! There have been so many losses in home health. Please don’t take this.’ That $6.99 or $8.99 birthday cake that you get at Shop N’ Save was so important to people." n
• Jackie Fournier, Hospice Nurse and Director of Clinical Support, Annette Munn, Staff Educator, HealthReach HomeCare and Hospice, 8 Highwood St., P.O. Box 1568, Waterville, ME 04903-1568. Phone: (207) 873-1127. Fax: (207) 873-2059.