Why Healthcare Leaders need to focus on skills-based training and upskilling
Why Healthcare Leaders need to focus on skills-based training and upskilling

The troubling reality keeping healthcare executives up at night is two-fold. Maintaining financial stability, and the age-old problem of hospitals (no pun intended) bleeding nurses. Hospitals are losing nurses to non-bedside roles and, in some cases, different career paths altogether, and this didn’t stop when the pandemic ended. Job satisfaction for RNs is still on the decline, with the number of nurses reporting dissatisfaction with their chosen career nearly doubling between 2017 and 2021. Even more troubling is that the sharpest declines in job satisfaction is in hospital-based registered-nurse positions. Additionally, the supply of registered nurses does not keep pace with the demand, making it difficult for each hospital system to maintain an acceptable pipeline of FTE RNs.

Innovation is king in today’s successful healthcare organizations, and one way leading hospitals are helping to fill this continued staffing gap is to upskill. So, what exactly is upskilling, and why is this important? Upskilling is preparing nurses and support staff to perform outside of their role and current responsibilities by training them in skills that they did not have before. The benefits of upskilling are showing promise, as staff members have reported an increased sense of job satisfaction when presented with these opportunities for growth. Organizations have also noted a decrease in nurse turnover when educational opportunities like these are available. 

As a complement to upskilling, skills-based hiring is another trend gaining momentum in the clinical world. This is similar to upskilling because it focuses on individuals’ competencies instead of solely looking at a degree earned or education achieved. It helps identify talent stemming from less traditional approaches. The two distinct paths of upskilling existing healthcare workers, and skills-based hiring come together nicely when healthcare leaders look holistically at their organization. As Celine Raffray of Bristol Myers Squibb says, “You have to be innovative in identifying skills.” Add this strategy to the reality of needing to continuously train and upskill existing employees, and organizations have the recipe for successfully recruiting and retaining top talent to make their organizations perform better and bring a little relief to the talent pipeline. Cue the much-needed extra shut-eye, leaders!

One member of the Healthcare Alliance, a group of health system innovators working to improve the learning experience, UCHealth, is investing in their staff members by upskilling patient care assistants through support role training. UC Health created and implemented workforce development adaptive learning modules for their PCAs, resulting in a 70% retention rate, a 50% reduction in learning time, and a 14.6% system-wide decrease in caregiver burden.

Another member of the Healthcare Alliance, Intermountain Health, utilizes a fresh approach to onboarding new RNs through. Nursing Competency adaptive learning modules for critical areas including CLABSI prevention, fall risk and other high-risk onboarding areas. They saw reduced training time for new hire RN orientation of 80%! The investment in skills-based learning pays off when new hires can finish onboarding and get on the floor faster. This saves training budget, increases job satisfaction, and gives clinical educators valuable time back to focus on their next most pressing initiatives.

When healthcare executives can prioritize skills-based training for nurses and upskill support staff, the gap between supply and demand may lessen just enough to help us all sleep better at night.

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