Make On-Call Training Stick: Retain What You Learn

All is for naught if the Scheduler “student” does not or cannot participate with time and mind “cleared” for learning.

Ready to use new on-call scheduling software to get your physician scheduling done? Do you have a plan that includes all three “players”… yourself, your trainer, and your manager?

The Scheduler “student” must plan not only for the actual meeting times but also alone-time to try out new skills learned, make mistakes, and ask questions.

Software Trainers help make training stick by showing the Scheduler how they will benefit from call scheduling software as well as the Providers they schedule, both now and in the future.

Managers play an important role in the training of a Scheduler, though they may not be entirely aware of it. They set the expectation that the Scheduler will be learning something valuable and integral to the well-being of the entire Physician group. They can make-or-break how much benefit the Scheduler gets from training with their attitude and the amount of time the Manager allows the Scheduler for practice and a meaningful learning experience.

“You’ve got One Hour for training”. Really?

Sometimes the initial reaction is “How many hours? Four? I can’t spend two hours with the deadlines I have. We’re already against the wall; can’t we just do it ALL in an hour? “

Unfortunately, cramming does not produce retention and a well thought out, repeatable on-call Scheduling Process that can be used again and again for future rounds of Physician Scheduling. Every group has unique needs, so each Scheduler will require a different amount of training depending on the complexity of the schedule and the scheduling software features used.

Doing “three hours” all at once is inevitably overwhelming, so we implement training in a series of sessions instead of one massive “how-to” session.

The Secrets to learning retention: Spacing and Frequency

  • Why space training sessions out so they are not too close together?
    Shorter, digestible bursts are easier to schedule during a busy workday, and the follow-up sessions can be scheduled just before “forgetting” takes place. It is not unusual to need 3 or 4 sessions to allow for learning, training, and practice… spaced over several weeks.
  • Why have an Implementation Process to follow?
    An orderly progression saves time and frustration vs hopping around answering the “question of the moment”, thereby possibly leaving “holes” in learning how to use the software. Nothing is missed during setup to cause problems later, questions can be answered as you go.
  • Why not just run through the whole thing in 3 or 4 back-to-back days, or use strictly on-line eLearning and answer questions as they come up?
    Material is better remembered when the Scheduler-student “sleeps on it”, then actually uses the physician scheduling software in a practical way immediately the next day. The mind absorbs new material better when there is time to absorb and practice, not simply observe and hypothesize for later use.

Here are some practical rules of thumb for learning new Scheduling Software.

1) Lay the Foundation: The initial training session is the foundation of understanding the overall project and process of implementation. This is when many “orientation” type questions get asked, materials are gathered, and the work gets started. It is imperative that additional follow-up training sessions are scheduled before leaving this meeting so momentum is not lost.

2) Retention: The follow-up session(s) must be close enough that the Scheduler is not yet at the “forgetting point”, but long enough to get the “homework” done. If the follow-up session is too far away, there will be additional time needed to review forgotten material. Delay sessions long enough, and motivation is lost as well as momentum.

3) Assign Action: After the initial training session, there should be time allowed for “homework” to make sure the Scheduler has a solid understanding of the material. This is a time to renew commitment if feeling a little overwhelmed. The Scheduler’s Manager support can be crucial if the Scheduler is very new to the whole idea of scheduling; since she is not only learning new material… she may be learning a new position as well!

4) Keep the Momentum: Future sessions focus on making progress as the Scheduler builds knowledge. They will begin to feel “I can do this by myself” as well as “That’s a lot of stuff, show me the end right now!” This is not unusual. In fact, we wrote a whole blog about “the curve”. Refocus on what you can control right now, reframe difficulty as an opportunity. Hang in there through the “dip”.

5) Solicit Internal Manager Support: Want to save time and money? Remember what gets the way of learning! Time, work pressure, loss of inertia, commitments to others… The Scheduler Manager’s support and influence will affect how long the implementation will take and how “sticky” the training will be.

6) Refresher sessions: Learning… there is no “endpoint”. As the Scheduler becomes “fluent” and confident using the software, she will need less external support from the vendor. Consider scheduling occasional refresher sessions – perhaps once a year – since not all features will be used right away and new features may become available.

Key takeaway:

On-call training is a solution, not an event. After laying the initial foundation of on-call scheduling know-how, reinforcement, interactive questions and practice are crucial for learning retention. We mentor, coach, and encourage our Scheduler “students” to ensure that they can use and keep the new skills they are acquiring.


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