This series of self-study lessons on Central Service topics was developed by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). The lessons are administered by Purdue University’s Continuing Education Division.
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Ongoing education and training is a way of life for sterile processing personnel. In today’s healthcare environment, the fast pace of change confronts Central Service staff everywhere. Many employees realize that, the more they learn, the more they must learn. In addition to new technology, it is now necessary to learn how to “work smarter” and to do more with less. These constraints make education and training more important than ever, while making it more difficult to attain. Educating the staff and helping them maintain their competencies is essential to every Central Service department. This self-study lesson presents an overview of some basic procedures that can be helpful in planning and evaluating training programs.
Education can be defined as knowledge or abilities gained through learning. The purpose of education is to provide learners with basic skills—such as language and communication, mathematics, and science—that can help them continue learning. Successful education will encourage an interest in life-long learning, which is a requirement in many fields. Without the fundamental tools acquired through education, it is nearly impossible to learn a skill or a job.
By contrast, training involves preparing incoming and currently-employed staff members for short-and longer-term position knowledge and skills. Training is the process of developing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to perform tasks required for a specific position.
It may sometimes be necessary to provide additional, remedial education to make training successful. (Adult remedial education generally refers to training in basic skills necessary for employment, such as language, writing, and mathematics.) For example, it may be necessary to address the basic language needs of any trainees who may not speak English as a first (primary) language. The training might be altered to adjust the language to a level appropriate for all the trainees. Or training could be conducted in different sessions, in the primary language of each group of trainees. In every instance, it is important for trainers to identify and incorporate any special concerns such as these into planning the training. When the necessary educational building blocks are in place, the training module is more likely to be successful.
You’ve learned that the first helpful step in effective training is determining whether the trainees have all the educational building blocks required for the training. To do so, trainers must have some basic information about the trainees. This is relatively easy when Central Service managers or supervisors are training staff members with whom they interact on a daily basis. It is more difficult when a trainer must facilitate training for other departments within the facility, or for employees from other facilities, such as when a trainer is developing training for a local chapter of the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management. In that case, a simple questionnaire can be helpful (see the sample in Figure 1). Each question should provide information to help tailor the training module to each trainee’s needs.
Other information might also be pertinent, but can often be obtained without asking specific questions.
The questionnaire in Figure 1 provides useful information about learning needs, and reveals more than the questions ask. For example, if a trainee correctly completes and submits the form, the trainer has some evidence about his or her ability read and write and to follow simple instructions. The trainer will also have an idea about what the trainee knows, based on work experience.
Question 2 identifies whether the trainee is seeking training, or is being directed to it by the supervisor. Required or mandatory attendance to a program may indicate disinterest or unwillingness to learn. Question 3 will inform the trainer about the level of information that should be presented. If, for example, all potential attendees have received similar information in previous training, more advanced or in-depth information can be provided.
The response to question 4 alerts the trainer to any need for potential language adjustments that can help make the presentation more beneficial to the trainees.
If responses to question 5 indicate that several people are unable to attend all three sessions, this may indicate a need to adjust the training schedule.
Responses to question 6 will suggest if the respondent can articulate a written response. Is the handwriting legible? Are words spelled correctly? Is the response grammatically correct? Can the trainee read and follow simple instructions?
The answers to these and related questions will help the trainer determine if the planned training experience will be suitable to the learners, or if changes in format or style will be helpful.
How can you identify problems that may be solved through training? Some methods for finding these problems in your department include:
While all process-related problems cannot be corrected through training, many can be. Once these problems are identified, training programs to address them should be planned and implemented. An important first step is to develop specific, measurable objectives that indicate how the situation will be if the training is effective, drive the content of the training program, and provide the basis for evaluating the program’s success.
Adult learners have different needs than younger learners. For example, adults respond more favorably when they can select the training method to be used. In some situations, this will be possible. Unless the trainer can select the trainees, however, it is probably best to provide varied training experiences designed to meet the majority of the learning needs the trainer encounters.
Most adults know and can describe their preferred learning style. Figure 2 outlines basic differences between three of the most common styles.
Many sterile processing topics lend themselves well to a combination of these learning styles. Watch the learners for silent clues that may suggest a need to vary your presentation techniques. For example, when visual learners appear to daydream, they are looking elsewhere for information input. Auditory learners may be seen “mouthing” the words they are writing in their notes, to increase their stimulation. Tactile learners may squirm and move around in their seats. If you notice these silent clues, increase the variety and tempo of the training presentation. Providing information in multiple formats will likely improve the learners’ retention and satisfaction levels.
After a training program has been presented, its effectiveness must be determined. The training should be evaluated to assess how thoroughly the training objectives have been attained. The trainer can use evaluation tools such as knowledge tests, skill observation, and analysis of applicable operating data (for example, reduced costs or increased customer service scores, depending upon the objectives of the training activity). Also, trainees can contribute to the evaluation. Examples of questions to ask trainees include:
While these questions will provide insight about the trainees’ preferred styles of learning, they may not provide specific evidence that learning occurred. If performance-based objectives have been established, the evaluation will assess whether the trainees’ performance after the training meets the objectives. Example: If the training objective is to teach a new Central Service technician how to properly operate a steam sterilizer and, if proper operation is defined as consistently using the procedures specified in the operating manual, the training can be evaluated by observing how the staff member operates the sterilizer after training.
Seeing the staff apply newly-acquired knowledge or skills on the job, then, will indicate that real learning has occurred through the training. Accurate training assessment will consider both how the training has been implemented and the spin-off effects, such as improved morale, decreased employee turnover, and reduced numbers of mistakes, among numerous other benefits. The best indication of the effectiveness of training, for trainers who are educators at heart, however, may be when learners seek opportunities for additional training.
Cofiell, CRCST, FCS
Scott Davis, CMRP, CRCST, CHMMC
Susan Klacik, ACE, CHL, CRCST, FCS
David Narance, RN, BSN, CRCST
Koncur, CRCST, CHMMC, ACE
Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL