Training: is upskilling a need or an option?

Training: is upskilling a need or an option?

Higher Education has been and continues to be the basis to acquire competencies and, in general, the way to access several highly qualified professions. This is not different when we talk about healthcare. In fact, in this area, education assumes a very important role since the syllabus for education programs focuses on a wide range of knowledge to allow students to develop tools and be prepared to become excellent professionals through recognized practices and international guidelines. 

But the real challenge comes when you have to put into practice everything you may have learned facing day-to-day reality.

In oncology, the past decades allowed us to greatly improve the results of cancer treatments largely because of the technological evolution and scientific research that has been developed… new types of equipment, new drugs, new techniques, new approaches and protocols but with that, of course, also come new challenges. This requires constant updating so that we can be aware of the state of the art and lead practices instead of losing the opportunity of providing the best care to our patients. This update has also been demanded, in several countries, to maintain the professional certification trying to guarantee the continuous professional development of healthcare professionals.

Nowadays, teams dedicated to treating cancer are multidisciplinary and professionals assume different roles for which they need additional skills and for which they probably have not had any type of training. Clinical experience and seniority are the strongest foundations of any team and very important contributors to learn on the job, but they do not replace training and upskilling especially because these professionals also have the responsibility and the difficult task of training younger members.

Another point from which it is relevant to address upskilling is risk management in the clinical environment. With growing demands in several areas such as legal compliance, patient safety, patient data or lack/high turnover of human resources, upskilling is a crucial tool since it allows not only to acquire new skills and consolidate the existing ones but also to develop a critical awareness of realities and processes. This increased knowledge makes it possible to identify risks and opportunities and plan activities or design workflows more efficiently and safely. 

There are several types of training and teaching/learning models to promote upskilling. From e-learning to onsite courses, from theoretical to hands-on methods, remote or side-by-side. The key is to identify the priorities and the goals that should be achieved. 

Do we want to promote a learning opportunity just to someone in specific or to a whole team? Do we need bespoke training packages to meet our requirements? What kind of competencies do we want to work on? Leadership, clinical knowledge, technical training, soft skills? And what about the trainers? Who is the right partner? Do we want academic expertise or clinical experience? 

Performing a correct diagnosis of training needs is as crucial as the training itself and could define the success of the upskilling process.

Even though the importance of training is clear and recognized, we often run into the same wall – the budget, especially in the times in which we live. It is also the duty of healthcare professionals, namely those who occupy decision-making roles, to consider funding for these activities, ideally as a part of a Training Program. This should be a priority in any hospital, clinic or department. But please, be aware that this does not relieve us of our responsibility to outline an individual path of continuous professional development if we have the opportunity. If we are better prepared, this contribution will somehow impact the team since we are part of it. Remember… we can all learn something from our colleagues. 

There is no right or wrong answer to the initial question. It will depend on if you have to do it for legal requirements compliance or if you want or not to invest in your professional development to become a better healthcare provider. What exists is the need for reflection and action for all the players in healthcare. 

Is upskilling a need or an option? What do YOU think? 

Joana Lourenço

Head of Clinical Training & Education

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