E-learning to solve the shortage of health professionals

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the first questions within the chiropractic industry for the General Chiropractic Council was how chiropractors were going to be able to complete their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours. Beyond the chiropractic community, there was also a big question mark over the ability to complete the number of hours of learning with others that is required of all healthcare professionals. Fortunately, professional bodies and educators have been quick to respond, launching a host of online training solutions to meet people’s needs and continuing to share knowledge, resources and information, albeit in very different ways.

Not only has the rise of eLearning solutions provided a flexible and more accessible way for people to continue their learning and development remotely, it has also helped cultivate a greater sense of community among IT professionals. health. Additionally, it has proven that training can be delivered effectively and at a good level outside of a physical amphitheater, becoming a more accepted medium of education in the healthcare industry. But, as restrictions continue to lift and in-person training once again becomes a viable option, will online training solutions continue to play such an important role in our training and development?

More than anything, online training offers flexibility:

  • Flexibility for you to learn and pursue a successful healthcare career even if you live in a more remote area
  • Flexibility to learn at your own pace and in different formats
  • Flexibility to diversify your knowledge and explore certain areas in greater depth by having more information at your fingertips

All of these things are extremely attractive and remove many of the barriers that keep people from getting healthcare degrees because they are historically so intensive.

Indeed, wider use of e-learning could help address the need to train more health workers across the world due to its flexibility and accessibility. According to a recent report by the WHO, the world is short of 7.2 million health professionals, and this figure continues to rise. Online learning could allow millions more students to train as chiropractors, doctors and nurses around the world.

Dr Josip Car from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health said: “E-learning programs could potentially help address the shortage of healthcare workers by enabling better access to education; especially in developing countries where the need for more health professionals is greatest. He noted that there were still obstacles to overcome, such as access to computers, internet connections and learning resources, but that this could be facilitated by facilitating investment in ICT, and that universities should encourage developing e-learning programs and using online resources. to reach international students.

However, the benefits of online learning don’t end there. In the chiropractic profession, CPD events are an ongoing challenge as they must balance the cost of the event with the cost of the program, and there is naturally a limit to how much people are willing to pay. Seeing virtual CPD events take place so successfully during the pandemic has helped make online forums a credible and cost-effective solution for delivering this type of training.

It’s also no secret that healthcare changes every five minutes and there is a need to keep pace with all developments. The accessibility and immediacy of online learning helps people stay up to date. It provides a space not only to learn about new developments, but also to discuss them with your peers in real time.

Of course, the most obvious challenge now and in the future is that for people to train and graduate as competent practitioners, they need to put their learning into practice. Online learning is purely theoretical and you don’t have the time or opportunity to put your learning into practice, which is so vital, especially as a healthcare professional. So the question remains: if you’re learning skills that need to be applied in practice, does e-learning meet that requirement?

This is something we need to keep in mind whether we are undertaking or planning to undertake an apprenticeship. For example, one question I always ask myself for the virtual healthcare training we do at Oakley Coaching is, “How am I going to structure this so that students can go out and practice this and then come back with questions that they have ? » ‘.

Through Oakley Coaching, online training is delivered via virtual webinars where one speaker facilitates the seminar and the other provides live support to provide additional links to resources and answer any questions that may arise. This is the perfect opportunity to speak directly to peers and receive live feedback, creating an interactive experience and helping to maintain engagement and attention (a common problem for any online training event). A sense of community for learners is paramount for online learning where they can engage and network with each other. This continues through our private Facebook group which allows members to review learning, share information and knowledge, and access resources at their own pace in a secure forum.

I consider this “follow-up group” to be an essential part of the training, as it not only provides peer-to-peer support and feedback once participants have had a chance to test their new skills in clinical practice, but opens conversation on other topics. of interest. I believe this not only builds participants’ confidence in learning their new skills, but increases the likelihood that they will continue to build their knowledge base, knowing that they have had ongoing support available to them. This is especially important with the coaching skills we teach, as they often involve modifying internal dialogue and refining ingrained communication skills. By putting additional support in place, we can encourage lasting change through e-learning, rather than just being a tick-off exercise to meet CPD requirements.

The BCA used a similar process for its hugely popular Fall Conference and “CPD Sessions,” often hosting member-to-member trainings. I have already mentioned the importance of community and overcoming the isolation felt by many independent practitioners even before the pandemic. Using a blended learning approach and content from virtual seminars, resources, podcasts, Q&A sessions, infographics and more, BCA has worked at pace to cover as many learning preferences as possible. . By creating this information resource for members, which continues to be an invaluable asset to the profession, they have developed a unique and enduring education platform that will be used for many years to come. The pandemic may have accelerated our use of virtual learning, but this type of CPD is here to stay and the technology will only get better.

There will also always be people who naturally prefer in-person training or synchronous online training with a speaker delivering content on the spot. Certainly, having a two-way interaction with a speaker and the ability to ask questions may allow some people to absorb and retain information more effectively than they would through e-learning.

One thing that seems to have been overlooked with the move to the internet over the past 12 months is that people need to learn how to learn virtually. Some people will understandably be pleased with the prospect of online learning continuing to play a greater role in their education and development beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic. However, learning to balance working from home with children with the determination and restraint needed to sit down and follow through on-line learning, for example, makes it harder for many people to absorb and retain information. E-learning attrition rates can be high simply because it involves such a paradigm shift in the way many of us are used to learning.

This is something that I think will be addressed as we become more comfortable with online learning and the courses themselves become higher quality and structured in a way that keeps the attention going. In the meantime, however, it is important that we optimize online learning and pedagogy for engagement. I’m also sure that patients will want reassurance about the effectiveness of their healthcare professional’s training: they’ll want to know that their healthcare professional’s training was of a caliber, quality and sufficient sufficiency, and that they have retained this knowledge.

However, research from Imperial College London reveals that students acquire knowledge and skills through online and offline learning as well as or better than through traditional education. However, he also suggested that the combination of e-learning with traditional teaching seems most appropriate for healthcare training courses that rely entirely on e-learning due to the need to acquire practical skills, or for more advanced medical students, for whom direct contact with the patient is essential.

Fundamentally, however, there has been a shift in our attitudes and behaviors towards learning which I expect will continue beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic. Instead of shutting down completely to return to lecture halls when we can, I would like to see a more mixed approach across all health sectors that combines the ease, flexibility and variety of online theory with opportunities reviews to put this theory into practice.

Byline written by Philippa Oakleychiropractor, member of the British Chiropractic Association and clinical director at Acorn Health and Oakley Coaching.

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