Panel: Despite health industry advances, education remains in 'Dark Ages'

Healthcare education is still "back in the Dark Ages," and as new advances in information and technology change the industry, the way the workforce learns and is educated also needs a reboot, according to panelists attending STEMHealth's forum "Moving at the Speed of Healthcare."

While IT in the healthcare space has migrated in a very short time from being located next to the hospital's laundry room to being part of its C-suite, workforce development in the industry has not caught up, Patricia Dombrowski, director of the Bellevue College Life Science Informatics Center, said Thursday afternoon at the National Press Club in the District of Columbia.

Cheryl Feldman, executive director of District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, added that part of the problem is that everything in the industry is very siloed. She said the Philadelphia-based labor-management educational trust fund is trying to work with employers to find the intangible skill sets that go with having to work every day in a healthcare system.

"How do you keep up with a whole performance improvement culture that connects to education? These are intangibles that we really haven't wrapped our arms around," she said. "I think it's time to blow [education] up and try to figure out a new way to do this work."

Jim Warner, chief learning officer for the Veterans Health Administration, disagreed that the industry has to blow up its current education model, but said higher ups in the industry "need to design the learning, education, training and knowledge management systems so that we don't inflict that rate of change and complexity on the individual employee."

As for capitalizing on the skill sets of employees, David Gill, director of talent management at North Shore-LIJ Health System, said the provider is working on using them in unexpected places.

For example, he said, they took an individual who worked in environmental services and had them go into one of North Shore's hospitals to clean the curtains every day. That employee, to cut back on the time it would take to clean the entire curtain, put a vinyl edge on the side of the curtain that doctors and nurses touch and only had to wipe that section down.

"This is an individual who may not be a nurse, PA or physician, but came up with an idea that helped the hospital," he said. "It's the idea of harnessing skill sets many employees have to help them fall into a situation where they can come up with a solution."

At the VHA, simulation training is one educational area that is a very big deal, Warner said.

He created a website for his community practice for simulation trainers. On the site, trainers can conduct a Google search for a training session, download the instructions and receive details on what they need to do at the training session. The site also has forums that allow trainers to send in ideas for sessions, he added.

"You can use Google, social media, all these tools to connect professionals," Warner said.