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Does mandatory training have to be boring?

  • Comments (9)

In his book Do No Harm retired neurosurgeon Henry Marsh described the irritation of taking time away from his work to sit though mandatory training.

He wrote: “The seminar was scheduled to last three hours and I settled down to get some sleep”.

While I would be remiss to argue that mandatory training is not essential, I wondered how many of you dread the annual get together to go over fire procedures, resus and safeguarding? I did a quick straw poll of nurses to find out if their experiences matched those of Henry Marsh.

One nurse told me that during her update the fire officers apologised in advance as he had borrowed a power point he hadn’t looked at. Another described it as a tick box exercise where staff were lectured to but there was little time for discussion or questions. 

A senior clinical nurse specialist recalled being told off because she was responding to an urgent email during a resus update and her colleague said several doctors appeared to be asleep at the back of the room.

The overwhelming impression is that mandatory training is delivered to people who do not have time to be there in a way that does not engage or encourage participation.

My straw poll of experiences of mandatory training may be selective and I apologise in advance to anyone who has devised a more imaginative and interactive ways of updating staff on the essentials. I know some organisations have now adopted e-learning to deliver updates and perhaps this needs to be the way forward. This could include some element of assessment so that staff would have to engage. There is no doubt that staff need to be updated but it has to be more than a tick box exercise. For one, surely we need to assess whether staff have understood the information delivered and assess learning needs?

Please tell us about your experiences. What works well? How can mandatory training be made more relevant and engaging?

  • Comments (9)

Readers' comments (9)

  • Mandatory training (or mandatory torture as one of my staff put it the other week) has come about because of serious incidents and we all get tarred with the same brush as being incompetent because our training passport is red. It isn't always that interesting to teach the basics (I know i do 3 weeks in 4 teaching to my Trust), let alone sit there through a whole day, nor does anyone want to do e-learning. We can never teach staff the way they want to learn as they are all so individual and it makes me smile how they all turn into badly behaved children on MT, sitting at the back gossiping throughout the training session, that you know they desperately need. But why don't they speak up and tell us what they need to know to do their job properly?

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  • Anonymous


    Julie re your comment nor does anyone want to do e-learning... my first point is its your opinion and its free but i would like you to take time to reflect deeply and explain to us how does a nurse who has 8-10 patients to look after including their families, coordinate unit activities, mentor juniors, attend to all her clinical duties get time to sit around a pc to do e-learning.
    most nurses do not even get the chance to sit in front of a computer if not for admitting/discharging patient, checking online tto/s, or viewing lab results.
    have you ever tried for yourself to complete your mandatory information governance training on line - so you know it takes averagely 2.5-3 hrs and yet many fail. some who get the rare opportunity of starting it have to abandon because the patient bell came up or a colleague has asked for help... by the time you come back you have lost your learning rhythm and concentration or at worst pc has jammed !!

    all mandatory training programmes should be organised by the practice development team and should be inclusive of our working hours. Our time off is our LEGAL time off. no one should ever do online training from home.

    lastly shall i remind you that if ever all of us ever did all our training online then YOU will be out of your job.

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  • Anonymous

    My experience of e learning is to be taken out of my shift and told to do it in a busy noisy office under a time constraint whilst I'm still thinking about the work I've been snatched from and expected to learn and retain the knowledge ! All so my line manager can tick a box to show I am compliant with the trusts policies , even though I maybe still don't fully grasp what it is I've supposed to have learnt !

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  • Anonymous

    Our trust has e-learning with a quiz at the end, but you can take the quiz as many times as you want until you get at least 70%. So we just sit there, don't go through the actual learning, and take the quiz until we get the pass mark.

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  • michael stone

    Henry was less-than-enthusiastic about a host of 'administrative' changes between when he qualified and now. That is a recurring theme in his excellent book.

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  • I would suggest that the trainers are selected for their ability to deliver a lecture, not just for their knowledge of the subject. The most interesting subject can be made stultifyingly boring by somebody who is no good at teaching - the most boring subject can be made interesting and memorable by the injection of a bit of humour and imagination. Everybody can learn a subject. Not everybody can pass on the information in a way that the victims in the lecture theatre can enjoy or even tolerate.

    I can't see the point of e-learning. There are too many distractions at work to be sitting in front of a computer and there is no chance to ask questions, and of necessity it has to be a tick-box exercise. Then you get to print off your little certificate, which enables the Trust to say they've trained you and therefore be absolved of blame if you make a mistake.

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  • Anonymous

    Jill Garnett you are so on the point about the person presenting the training. E learning can work well for some subjects and I am fortunate enough to be able to work in an office that has relatively quiet periods where the required concentration can occur. I know ward based staff get sent to sisters office or an empty consulting room but may still be disturbed and as others have said be worrying about thier abandoned patients. When I was ward based entire days were given over to mandatory training session OFF the ward and with a range of presenters and formats. It seems that this method is very out of vogue but I do know at the time it was the preferred means of achieving your tick boxes by all staff, it was done in work time AND you were NOt responsiblefor patient care while it was being done.

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  • Anonymous

    michael stone | 12-Jul-2015 1:16 pm

    most senior consultants are those who propose them or stick to the rules by the letter are often totally lacking in any form of common sense and can compromise patient care and safety. you don't rise to senior consultant status for nothing or appreciate being pushed around by those lacking in knowledge and experience.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 17-Jul-2015 11:54 am

    If I could understand your comment, I would be able to form a view on it: but I'm baffled by it, so I can't.

    Henry Marsh made it very clear in his book, that various things such as some H&S regulations, and restrictions on the working hours of trainee surgeons (which means they don't have as much contact with patients as they used to have), etc, in his opinion, and to use my phrase, 'Get in the way of him doing his job'. Unless I misunderstood his book, he preferred it in the days when the clinicians had a much greater say in how a hospital was run, than these days, when 'management' has more control.

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