Background: A highly engaged and well-trained workforce is vital to safe and effective care. Our organization identified a concerning, downward trend in employee engagement scores and convened a cross-functional workgroup to identify contributing factors and develop solutions. One contributing factor was the lack of opportunity for professional development and advancement.
Method: A survey was developed to assess not only team member level of interest, but also the perceived value of professional development, certification, continuing education, and advanced degree opportunities. The survey was administered to all 386 clinical non-provider staff members, including registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and medical assistants (MAs). We achieved an excellent 78% response rate. 75% of all respondents reported that they would value receiving a non-credit certificate for completion of an internal professional development course. Additionally, we queried motivation associated with their choice. Specifically, our RNs indicated that their top three reasons for pursuing advanced degrees or certification were to 1) improve the quality of patient care, 2) increase job opportunities within the organization, and 3) advance personal commitment to professionalism. Allowance of free text comments resulted in additional information such as concerns related to cost and schedule challenges.
Intervention: This poster presentation will focus specifically on the development of internal certification programs that provide value to the participant and align with organizational goals. An advance care planning (ACP) course and an advanced electrocardiogram (ECG) course were developed and implemented. A return on investment analysis for the ACP course predicted positive results through increased completion of ACP conversations, which is often a reimbursed, but underutilized service, as well as employee engagement. Both courses included didactic instruction, simulation, case studies and a written final assessment. Expectations were established that, following certification, participants would commit to actively using these skills in the ambulatory care environment by completion of a targeted number of ACP visits or ECGs, respectively. Recertification is available following completion of a biennial refresher course. All courses are offered during work hours with manager approval at no cost to the employee.
Results: 84 clinical staff have completed ACP training. Between August 2020 and May 2021, the number of completed ACP visits increased by 4.8%. 13 support staff have successfully completed the ECG course since its inception in June 2022. Class evaluations confirmed the perceived value of professional development opportunities that was reported on the survey.
Discussion: Participation rate and evaluation results indicate that internal certification courses can be a cost-effective, multi-purpose solution to advance staff skills for top-of-license work and engage team members in their professional development. High-quality care and improved patient outcomes can help engage both patients and team members. The fast pace of change in health care necessitates the creation of time- and cost-effective methods to improve patient care as well as engage staff in their development.
Limitations: During the implementation of the courses, the organization changed engagement survey platforms, making a direct comparison of pre- and post-engagement challenging.