Who do you want to be?

We can ask healthcare providers what they need to learn – and educators are asking this question often. The interesting part is we often get what people want to learn, not necessarily what they need to learn. Sometimes, they aren’t even sure.

The Missing Question

There are tons of evaluation/survey questions asking about what you want to learn or what topics you find interesting.

However, what if you included, “who do you want to be?”

If this is too existential for learners, you can ask what they hope to accomplish in 1 (or 5) years and look at their goals.

I wonder what types of answers you’d start getting with this one change. If we want better answers, we need to ask better questions.

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Bad Weather

It’s always a concern when planning a conference that speakers will get stuck flying in. Interestingly, sometimes it can be equally challenging flying out!

Several years ago, we were holding an Annual conference and two speakers flew in without issues – unfortunately, their flights to get out were cancelled.

Terrible weather was hitting the East Coast and there were no flights. We were two-thirds through our conference when a small group started diligently working on how to get people back home. Two kind and patient gentlemen might be stuck in Connecticut for some time…

One speaker was flying back to DC and we were able to find the best Amtrack schedule to get him there before his next presentation at 7am the following day…with a few hours of sleep to spare and some recommendations for pizza in New Haven, CT. This apparently was the easy the case.

Who knew how challenging it can be to fly out (and back in) of Arkansas? Well apparently, it was quicker to drive there than wait for another flight. After driving from CT to Philadelphia only to find out the flights were cancelled there too and then fully booked because everyone else was trying to get out too – he decided to drive back to AR.

It was a bit of a nightmare for them. We haven’t dared asked either to come back yet – maybe we’ll plan a webinar 🙂

We all have our own horror stories – I’d love to hear about your favorite.

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Choose Who You Write For

I was talking with someone a few days ago who was building a new product to help people with retirement planning. I asked, “who’s it for,” and the response was “everyone.” Gasp!

There are over 7.5 billion people it the world – the product can’t possibly be for everyone.

Too often we approach the outreach to learners in a similar way. You may have an email list of 500, 5,000, or 50,000. Who you send your marketing email to, is a choice you have.

The cool thing about technology, especially email marketing services, is you can segment your audience…and you should. Using the segmentation and email management features will certainly help you. If you have a home grown product, ask IT if it is already an option.

People have a limited amount of time and when they read emails from you that are not applicable, they unsubscribe or stop reading altogether. You may have heard the worst medication for a patient is the one they aren’t taking. Well, the worst email for your company is the one your audience isn’t reading.

To zoom in a bit more – your email list might include practitioners from different care settings (e.g. hospital, community, long term care, etc.). Each of these learners has a slightly different focus and interest level in what they are learning. Making that assumption, you can create “tags” or separate audiences to better segment your email list and send content that people are interested in reading.

Also worth noting: There are a many people who are already in a niche environment and might think – cool – but not for me. However, there’s typically a way to further breakdown the list. For example, if you create content for hospitals, you can add tags for IT, oncology, ED, administration, etc. etc.

Be creative. Try a segmented list and see what the response is. You get to choose.

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The Cost of Accreditation

Accreditation is a necessary part of education programs. For an educational organization to provide learning to healthcare professionals, the course/class has to be accredited.

But wait, in reality – providing education does not require accreditation. However, getting a Nurse or Pharmacist to take the course, accreditation is a piece learners are looking for.

For an educator to provide accredited courses, they will need to meet standards created and monitored by their respective accrediting organization.

For Pharmacy, accreditation is set through the Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education (ACPE); Nursing is through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) [or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)]; there is also a joint accreditation option through Joint Accreditation – Interprofessional Continuing Education, which offers accreditation for CME, CNE, and CPE – and recently has added the option to include PAs, Social Workers, Optometrists, and Psychologists.

To give you an idea of the costs for accreditation, here are a couple of tables:

Pharmacy:

Nursing (annual fees):

Joint Accreditation:


Zooming in on Pharmacy, the annual fee is dependent on how many credits you offer and how many learners you have within those learning activities.

Zooming way in – ESU is calculated by taking the number of continuing education units (CEUs) of a CPE activity multiplied by the number of participants receiving an ACPE statement of credit or certificate for that activity. Adding the total ESU of all your programs puts educators in a specific level, which decides the annual fee.

When deciding to get accredited, there are many pieces to weigh/factor in. Mostly, it comes down to how many courses are you offering per year and how many learners do you anticipate attending (not including administrative and IT components needed to meet ACPE requirements). From there you can decide if the cost of accreditation is affordable or is it less expensive to get your program accredited individually through another organization – with corresponding fees.

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What’s a Needs Assessment?

Knowing what your audience needs to learn (or wants to learn) is an important first step in creating content. In the world of healthcare education, it is also a required component for any education you create. While this topic may appear dull at first, there is a simple reframe for it – you get to connect with your learners, hear what they need to learn and you build trust by continuing to listen to them and create education they are looking for.

The two most common forms of needs assessment we see are the Annual needs assessment survey and a post-course evaluation, which includes a question on what topics learners would like. These are also known as verbalized needs.

Needs can also be identified by looking at gaps in care when reviewing recent research or reading literature from different National Organizations (e.g. CDC, AHRQ, etc.).

However, there is a gap in the data you are collecting, especially with verbalized needs. People do not always know what they want. Typically, you are interrupting learners to get their feedback or adding it into an evaluation – the problem is that you are asking at one point in time. Often, they skip the section on the survey asking what topics they want to learn more about.

How can you connect with learners when they don’t tell you what they want to learn? First, you start with people who are telling you. Second, at a live conference you spend time talking with attendees about the sessions and listen to their responses – it’s a good indication of a needs assessment as you’ll get.

A good needs assessment looks at where the learner is and where they want to go. One of the roles of an educator is to help them meet their professional development goals. Not only will taking the time to ask deeper questions help you identify more engaging and meaningful content but you’ll also build a stronger connection to your audience by seeking enrollment.

Listening, asking better questions, and providing a survey that isn’t an interruption – start with these three tools and you’ll be on your way to developing more meaningful education.

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Adaptive Learning

When many of us took licensing exams, we experienced “adaptive testing” or CAT – computerized adaptive testing. While we answered questions, the algorithms in the test would change the questions based on our responses.

While CAT has been used for well over a decade, the use of adaptive learning (or adaptive teaching) has gained popularity in the last 5-10 years. Similar to testing, the AI/algorithms will adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the learner, based on mastery and knowledge of the content.

(A quick side note: A recent episode of Akimbo by Seth Godin talked about Systems Thinking – and how we can learn about the systems available in our industry and how to use them effectively)

A specific framework used is ALGAE (Adaptive Learning for GAme dEsign). This concept uses a mixture of game design, adaptive learning and instructional/teaching models to enhance learning.

If you’re interested in adaptive learning, here are some additional resources:

Happy Learning!

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Collaborating is Key

Zero-sum games are what some companies believe is true as they try to take hold of the market. However, it is for our collective benefit to work together to create a better version of what we have.

You could be part of a learning group sharing ideas of best practices and helping each other build a solid program. Or you could be part of a group collaborating with other organizations to put on a conference.

So whether it is between pharmacy organizations or equally valuable – between disciplines, the different way forward is together.

When we help each other move forward, everyone reaps the benefits of the new and improved version of education.

Who can you collaborate with this year?

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What’s Your Learning Style?

Auditory, visual, hands-on? These are a few learning styles you gravitate towards.

In an interesting TedX linked below, it’s possible personal preference for learning styles is not as significant for learning as originally thought.

It is worth thinking about what we are teaching and the best medium to share it.

When learning a new language, reading will have minimal benefit – we must practice. Similarly, seeing a mechanism of action for a medication – an animated or picture explanation of it, is much more useful than only reading about it in text.

When creating a presentation, in PowerPoint or otherwise, being mindful of what is taught and the medium – listening, seeing, or hand-on – will help learners better connect with what you are teaching.

TedX Talk on Learning Styles

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What to do with 600 Hours?

Interestingly enough, for a pharmacist who needs 15 hours of continuing education per year, this equates to roughly 600 hours of education over the course of a typical career. In 600 hours, we would also have 15 week long vacations checked off.

This 600 hours, as 15 weeks is really only 4 months long. It seems like a small amount of time that can have such a significant impact on your career.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

– Abraham Lincoln

What if we spent even a quarter of the time planning what education to take (or create) as we do for planning our vacations?

Seems like time well spent.

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Diversifying Our Education

If I were to venture a guess, most continuing education (CE) is likely to be in written form and live didactic presentations.

The CE system creates a clear structure and these two mediums are at the forefront of our education.

However, there are a few other formats. For pharmacists, there are application and practice based courses, which are more hands on and interactive. A practice based CE is typically at least 15 hours and often referred to as a certificate program.

But wait – there’s more! You can also find home studies, which could be written, audio, or voice over powerpoint presentations. Under home study, you can also find podcasts.

The tricky part is that when you ask your audience which of these they prefer, you’ll get a wide range of responses. Some of these are mandatory and people will say they want to do them, despite the fact that they aren’t excited about it and would enjoy another way to do it.

As educators, it is important to know which medium to use for what type of course you are teaching. Some are better written or listening on your own schedule, while some would be better seeing visually and working through case studies with your peers. When in doubt – ask them!

Either way, a good mix of courses will provide learners to enjoy the type of learning they are looking for.

What type of education does your audience prefer? Please let me know in the comments.

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