Hopefully your new year s resolution includes not only improving yourself, but facilitating improvement in the skills of your staff and department as well. There are so many ways you can help the educational growth of your team and staff. Think beyond the traditional education settings to keep your staff on top of their game. We will look at several things that will help you and your staff to stay in the know to care for your patients today and tomorrow. Journals, Magazines, and Newsletters Since you are reading this article, most likely you subscribe to Cath Lab Digest. You are keeping up on what s going on in the cath lab, but is your staff? Are you sharing magazines and important articles with your team? Journals are a wealth of information at a minimum cost. Don t limit yourself to journals that specialize in one area of expertise. Think outside of the box and look at other journals, magazines, and newsletters that have insight and opinions to what is going on in the industry. Corazon, for an example, has a biannual newsletter that is specific to the cardiovascular specialty. The newsletter informs the reader on what is hot in the industry as well as success stories of our clients. To get your free subscription to the Corazon newsletter, visit www.corazoninc.com. Your own hospital newsletter can also be a source of information and education. This will keep you in the loop on what is happening in other areas of the hospital, from new procedures to new members of the medical staff. Is there something in your department that can be shared with the rest of the organization? What journals are your physicians reading? These journals will be very beneficial to you and your staff, giving you the information that the physicians are keeping up with, and the latest and greatest device or procedure in the cath lab. Remember, physicians are part of the team too. Sharing information from physician resources will give your staff a better picture of what is new and hot in the cath lab. It can help foster open communication between physicians and staff, which will improve and grow the department. Society Memberships Another way to stay on top of what is going on in the area of cardiovascular care is to encourage your staff to become members and be involved in relevant healthcare organizations. Many national organizations have local chapters and have monthly or quarterly meetings, where members can meet and network with their peers to keep up with technology, training and staffing. Do you know who on your staff is involved with organizations? If you have staff members that hold a position with local or even national organizations, work with them to share their knowledge and experience with the rest of your team. They could present information at staff meetings or even post the information in the lounge for staff members to read during breaks. You will be surprised how much local information these organizations share and discuss, from new regulations to what is going on at other facilities. National Conferences Many of the professional societies previously mentioned have national educational conferences. In terms of educational benefit and raising the standard of the profession, these venues are phenomenal. The opportunity to network and interact with other professionals as well as witness live, real-time case reviews and even view tissue in the specimen lab is an incredible learning experience. Unfortunately, these can be costly when travel and other factors are considered. In terms of who goes where, Corazon recommends the same process we use when discussing educational opportunities with our clients. First, research the venues and locations of the major and specialized conferences that will be beneficial to attend. Then, plot out which ones make the most sense for which staff, including travel burden, scheduling, personal preference, etc. Once one or two staff members are selected to attend each conference, charge them with writing a white paper, creating a poster board presentation, or presenting a full in-service on the key things that they learned. This not only ensures active participation by the attendees, but also keeps all of the staff in the loop of what is new and cutting-edge in our industry. Internet Another rapidly growing venue for staff education is the Internet. Many companies have initiated online staff education programs to improve skill competency, critical thinking ability, and overall pathophysiology. Originally initiated to assist nurses and other licensed professionals in meeting their continuing education requirement for state licensure, these programs have blossomed to include trauma, critical care, and other certifications as well as general education topics. Although this type of learning does take away from the group and team interaction, it allows significant flexibility in terms of scheduling and completion. Staff can even access these programs at home, forgoing a drive to the hospital for an education day. To insure standardization and the achievement of core competency goals, Corazon recommends that departments set up a small committee to outline learning objectives for the coming year, approve online curriculum (including obtaining approval from any hospital-wide education department and arranging for payment), and to develop timelines and tracking mechanisms. Although the Internet offers a great wealth of programs, facilities must insure that content is appropriate and universal for all staff. Vendor Education Vendors can provide a wealth of knowledge to your staff. Most device and drug representatives welcome the opportunity to speak with you and your staff about their products and services. They can also provide written material to distribute to your staff to read at a later time. Keeping up with technology takes time and effort. By bringing this information to the team, you will let them know that you are committed to their education and development. Focusing on new technology opportunities can be particularly helpful if your facility is planning to expand or grow your program in the near future. If you don t know the latest technologies, your physicians certainly do. They are keeping up with the latest trends in cath labs as well as what new graduates are learning and using in their training programs. A new graduate fresh out of training is looking for state-of-the-art technology and devices. If you are expanding or growing your program, new technology and staff who are comfortable with its use will be keys to success. Your Market and Your Competition Stay one step ahead of the game by keeping up with market trends and your competition. If you have no competition, then you are lucky but chances are you do. More and more community hospitals are establishing cath labs and/or expanding the number of labs and services they offer. If you are not keeping up with this information, you could be blindsided down the road. As hospitals in your area open their doors for business and/or market the new addition, they could be taking patients from you, and worse, they could be taking your staff. Encouraging communication and education, as well as keeping your eye on technology, outcomes, patient and staff satisfaction, will help to keep your market share and your staff. Intangible Benefits of Staff Education Let s face it. There really is no immediate fiscal benefit to staff education. For most organizations, education is considered a sunk cost and just part of doing business. However, Corazon s experience as national consultants and recruiters is a little different. Sure, there is no immediate cost savings or market impact to education as there is for a new piece of imaging equipment or the latest tool for atherectomy, but there are a great number of intangible benefits. Having worked with over 200 programs across the United States, we have seen that the most cohesive and productive interventional teams are the ones that always strive to learn. These are the teams that are recognized by physicians as peers and are respected for their knowledge and skill level. These are also the teams that stay together, with turnover rates being lower for groups that consider themselves a team of professionals. Corazon has also seen that teams that have worked together longer are more efficient in emergent situations, procedure expediency and lab turn-around times. These factors will eventually lead to an improved bottom line. As the New Year begins and you develop your education plan for 2008, we hope you consider these options. And most importantly, we hope that you remember the value of education is not always immediately recognized, but will lay the foundation for many prosperous years ahead. Carol is a Recruitment Consultant at Corazon, a national leader in specialized consulting and recruitment services for cardiovascular program development. Corazon combines strategic business planning, market and financial analysis, feasibility studies, clinical operations, program implementation support, Heart Hospital design, best practice benchmarking, executive search, and staff/leadership education for newly established or existing heart and vascular programs. Call 412-364-8200 or visit www.corazoninc.com. This article was reprinted with permission from Cath Lab Digest 2008;16(1):36-39.