Whatever the complexity of a person’s condition and many challenges that may present for them, our commitment is to ensure each individual is supported by a team equipped with the most relevant and up-to-date knowledge of their condition and the most appropriate treatments available. Integral to the fulfilment of that promise is ensuring that each team member has access to a comprehensive training and development programme that enables them to provide the very highest standards of care.
Ronan Flood, Regional Training Manager at Elysium Healthcare, is responsible for the training across the neurological services, and was instrumental in creating our award-winning dementia training. Since joining the training team back in June 2019 he has made a big impact helping to bring the knowledge and experience of our clinical thought leaders to the forefront so that all team members can benefit from their expertise. In this EveryExpert article we talk through his three key principles of successful training – enjoy, engage and evaluate.
Hi Ronan, thanks for talking with us today, we’re looking forward to chatting more about your approach to training. But before we jump into the details could you give our readers a brief introduction about what you do at Elysium?
Ronan: “Absolutely. I’m the Regional Training Manager at Elysium Healthcare and I work across the three divisions of CAMHS, Mental Health SS and the Neurological division. I‘m responsible for implementing training across these areas and ensuring that we continually share best practice so that we can achieve the best outcomes for the individuals we support.
“My background has been within training for services offering dementia care, brain injury and spinal injury care. One of my first projects at Elysium was to help create the dementia training course which won the Best Dementia Training Initiative at the National Dementia Awards in 2020. This was a fantastic achievement for the team involved and it was great to have everyone’s efforts recognised in this way.”
So can you talk to us about your approach to training, how do you ensure the training is impactful?
Ronan: “Well I know it might sound unusual to say this, but a big focus for me is to make the training fun. I want everyone who attends one of my training sessions, or one that I’ve contributed to in some way, to enjoy it. Although training needs to be detailed and informative, we try not to cram too much in. It has to be the right balance of information but also engaging. I try to make each training session an enjoyable experience, I believe that when we are laughing, we’re learning. We can’t just be theory-based, we have to make sure the participants stay absorbed in the subject, connect to it and then they’re much more likely to retain the information.
“Engagement helps participants remember the essential points. I use a mixture of face-to-face learning and e-learning and try to include different exercises to make sure the participants stay emotionally connected to what they are studying.
“It’s also very important to always review your training and reflect upon whether what you’re providing is meeting the person’s needs. So evaluating your work is key. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the people who attend our training are as well-equipped as possible to provide high-quality complex care. Appropriate training, both in terms of its content and the standard to which it is delivered, has a huge role in the quality of a service and the care that is provided. So we always review our materials, courses and programmes, to ensure that we’re offering individuals the standard of training that they need.
“So that’s my three main focuses – enjoy, engage and evaluate.”
And is there one of these ideas that you look at first, or one that is more important than the others?
Ronan: “Well, they are all really important and actually enjoyment and engagement go hand-in-hand. Whenever I’m planning or delivering training a real priority is to establish an open mindset, one that is receptive to learning and is ready to take on new information.
“I try to establish that connection as quickly as possible. The faster we can do that, the more the person will engage and the more fun we can have. Having fun and enjoying training is super important because when you become immersed in learning, the more that you take in and remember. And that then shapes behaviour and impacts how the individual will work. It’s not about being flippant, we take the subject matter of our training very seriously, but it’s about getting the best out of the people that are in the room. Giving them the best training experience. Ultimately it benefits the people we provide care for, which has to be the most important.”
Can you give an example of how you might do that?
Ronan: “Sure – the exercise that we start with in the dementia training is one of my favourites because it opens people’s minds right from the outset and really helps to engage them.
“We have everyone attending the session lined up against the back of the wall. They all get a little card with a couple of sentences on it, a short bio if you like, about a person living with dementia. For example, it could be “My name is Deidre and I have Alzheimer’s disease. I have a dog and I struggle to walk.” Or something to that effect. Everyone has exactly the same card and the same bio, but they don’t know that.
“So then I’ll read various tasks that Deidre might be faced with and it’s down to the team member to decide whether or not Deidre can do that task or not. If they think she can, they take a step forward and if they don’t think she can, they take a step back. Remember they don’t know everyone has the same person.
So they can’t copy each other?
“Exactly, and so by the end of the exercise everyone is spread out across the whole room because they’ve all responded differently to each task. Then you get one of them to read the bio on their card out and then the whole group realises that they’ve got the same person. That’s a really powerful moment because immediately everybody understands that we’ve all got completely different ideas about dementia, and a completely different understanding of how it can affect a person’s life.
“It’s such a simple task but really powerful. It shows how much we project our own thoughts and experiences onto someone and what we think they can do. When you realise how much we make assumptions and project onto people, we realise how much we don’t know. It’s quite humbling actually.
“What we found was that immediately after that exercise, everyone’s ready for learning, their minds were open and they’d made that connection, that commitment, of ‘yes I want to learn’.”
As well as delivering training, is it part of your role to work with the specialists within Elysium to help them run training sessions and share their own knowledge and experience?
Ronan: “Yes, 100%. I work with a number of different therapists and clinicians across the various services in my region. Part of my role is helping or equipping them to develop training. Obviously they’ve got so much knowledge in their specialism that they can pass on, but they aren’t always sure how to present it in the best way.
“Sometimes I provide them with example scripts, prompts of what to say to act as a foundation for them to build upon. It’s like how you have lesson plans, well these are more training guides. Lesson plans set out the objective of the course, any tools that you need, questions etc. It’s quite a standard or set system. The training guide is a bit more colourful and more guided. So anyone in theory could pick it up and go through it, and it would enable them to run that class, regardless of their experience or knowledge.
“I also work one-to-one with individuals. Sometimes team members would like to get involved with running training sessions but request a bit of assistance to help prepare for that. Perhaps their knowledge of the subject matter is phenomenal but sometimes there’s a disconnect between having that knowledge and then being able to share it. I’ll go in and they’ll then observe me training, working with the staff. I’ll give them the pack and run through it with them. And then over a period of two or three occasions we’ll deliver the training together, we’ll share that responsibility so they’ll pick various parts that they want to deliver. The next time they’ll increase the sections they deliver and they grow in confidence with each session. It’s great to see.
“Ultimately everyone wants to learn from an expert in their field so if I can help the experts deliver great training, not only do they add another string to their bow, so to speak, but the whole team benefits. Plus it closes the gap between learning in the classroom and then putting that knowledge into practice on the units. The team member will often be working alongside the person who trained them and so they can always ask further questions and make sure that their knowledge can translate into improved care for the person they are supporting.
“I think this is particularly important in neuro services with the MDT. Complex care requires different teams to work together so it needs a completely joined-up approach – and this is where the benefits of the clinicians and therapists actually leading the training comes into its own.”
Do you have any other advice that we haven’t covered for someone devising training? Are there any extra tips you can share with them?
Ronan: “For me the best training is bespoke, something that is created to suit the needs of the individuals receiving the training and also the people who you are providing care for. That can take time to get right, it isn’t something that you can just draw up overnight. So my first bit of advice is don’t be afraid to tear it up and start again if it isn’t meeting the needs that you set out to. The more you reflect upon something, the more you’ll know whether it is actually achieving your objectives, and if it isn’t then it’s ok to go back to the drawing board.
“This is actually what happened with the dementia training that we established at Adderley Green – the training that we won the award for. We had a number of in-person meetings, online calls and discussions, and then we decided we needed to take the training in a different direction. We scrapped everything, started again and the end product was much better as a result.”
And was the team on board with the new direction?
Ronan: “Yes, definitely. I think that’s also another piece of advice I’d share – work collaboratively wherever possible and draw on any additional expertise that you have access to. Training is far more impactful with knowledge and expertise taken from a wide breadth of experience. I’ve been really fortunate at Elysium that I can work with such an amazing set of people, each with unique skills and really in-depth expertise.”
That’s a great piece of advice, thank you. And just to finish up then, what are you working towards right now, or in the near future?
Ronan: “Over the past 18 months, the training team led by Suzanne Rosenberg, have focused on developing the MyElysiumLearning (MEL) which is a bespoke online learning management system. It was created to be a one-stop-shop for learning. A place where staff can go to access a catalogue of development options depending on where they are in their career ranging from face2face training, e-learning, development pathways, CPD and qualifications. It is also a place where Managers can review the training that staff have completed and any training that they are due to undertake in order to be compliant within their role.
“The next stage for the system is to look at creating an on-line appraisal system, creating development pathways for catering staff, designing short animated videos on key subjects and adding in questionnaires and quizzes that staff can do to review their skills.
“CPD accreditation is also another big focus for us right now. The dementia course is already accredited, so any team member that attends will earn their CPD points. We’ve currently got 12 internal courses that are CPD accredited, but we’re hopefully trying to get all of them accredited over the next year or so to ensure that all of our training is at a certain level.”
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