All hands, eyes, and ears on deck

All hands, eyes, and ears on deck

Here's how to make your CE sessions effective for different learning styles.
Feb 01, 2009

Associates, you probably feel angst when you suggest an improvement to a hospital process, only to be shut down by the practice owner who thought you were insulting her leadership abilities. And practice owners, you're baffled by your associate who leaves promptly at 5 p.m. and never takes cases after closing time. Here's the rub: These behaviors are not necessarily the result of obstinacy or a poor work ethic. They may just be generational differences.

The variety of generations and personality types in the workforce today means you need to examine how you're communicating. And because the four generations in the workplace (see "Today's generations") live and interact differently, communication challenges pop up and affect how the team works together.

Keeping these generational differences in mind is important when you're planning team CE sessions. Not only does everyone in your practice represent a different generation, everyone also has a different learning style. So to effectively educate your team members, you'll need to overcome personality differences as well as generational barriers.

This article, based on the findings in Benchmarks 2008: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, discusses conflicting communication styles of generations in the workplace, the opportunities that can arise from communication gaps, and suggestions for mitigating miscommunication.

Keep it together

Dr. Brent Cook of Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, Md., says teams tend to fall apart when team members have no opportunity to be heard. So get them involved, especially when it comes to CE. Each year, Dr. Cook's staff has a chance to attend CE. Licensed technicians attend a national conference and other staff members attend local events. While attending a conference, team members go to dinner together every night and share what they learned that day.

If your practice can't afford to send everyone to a conference, internal meetings are a great tool. Dr. Cook suggests soliciting ideas on CE topics and presentation options. And if team members are interested, allow them to prepare and present on the topics they're knowledgeable about. Create a three-, six-, or 12-month CE calendar using employees' suggestions so you know the focus of the meeting ahead of time and have time to prepare and delegate responsibility. Team involvement boosts employees' enthusiasm for CE, and, as a result, they buy into the process. "Employees are excited about exploring an area they've picked themselves, and they share more information with other employees this way," Dr. Cook says.

You can plan a great CE meeting just by knowing who's coming, says Cindy Mims-Nash, hospital administrator at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Oakhurst, N.J. Mims-Nash says that often an employee's lack of interest in a CE session is due to the fact that the content doesn't match his or her learning needs.

To ensure that visual, auditory, and tactile learners (see "Learning style characteristics") grasp a new procedure or understand how to make a recommendation to a client, make sure elements of your presentation appeal to the different learning styles. Try an oral presentation (to appeal to the auditory learners) with props (for the visual and tactile learners) and provide a handout afterward (everyone benefits).

You might also give a quiz at the end of the session. This promotes a little healthy competition between departments—and teamwork within groups—by presenting awards for the highest scores.