Leading by exampleOn 3 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today The NHS Nursing Leadership Project is designed to liberate talent and isproving to be a shining example of e-learning in actionWe often think of a nurse taking someone’s blood pressure or dressing awound, but rarely picture them dealing with a difficult employee or assessingan individual’s emotional intelligence. Plenty of nurses, however, have tomanage and deal with staff and so need to have the same leadership skillsassociated with business. Similarly, as one of the largest employers in Europe, the NHS has an ongoingneed to support and influence the workforce so it can adapt to change, improveservice and deal with challenges of new ways of working. To address these needs, it introduced the National Nursing LeadershipProject, which is now the largest leadership programme in the world, involvingsome 35,000 nurses. At the hub of the project is a website, launched in April2001 (www.nursingleadership.co.uk),through which a mass of information and resources, along with a growingcollection of e-learning courses may be accessed. Speaking about the programmeat the site’s launch, the Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn, said that”liberating the talents of nurses helps to expand the overall capacity ofthe NHS, increases the productivity of the NHS and improves the performance ofthe NHS”. From the outset, the Government wanted e-learning to play a vital part inthe programme. But while the directive for the training came from the top, thedemand from nurses and other clinical staff for leadership development wasequally high, as was the willingness to try the new training methods, saysDavid Dawes, e-learning development manager at the NHS. Before embarking on the project, Dawes and his team carried out a majorresearch project designed to assess readiness of clinical staff and theorganisation for e-learning. “We also wanted to ascertain how and when people preferred to access itand to identify any barriers that might exist,” he says. “Followingthis, we looked at the effectiveness of the content and compared differentapproaches to e-learning.” The research found that 70 per cent of registered nurses have internetaccess, compared with 30 per cent of adults in the general population, and thatalthough 63 per cent of NHS clinicians had access to a computer at work, 59 percent of respondents preferred to learn at home. “This told us that the e-learning had to work on a standard homemodem,” says Dawes. “In terms of barriers, the biggest problems werework-life balance, lack of funds and lack of time. The other main findingrelated to the content of the courses. NHS staff felt uncomfortable withreferences to sales, profit and other business terms – and they also wanted awide choice of modules. This told us we either needed to go the bespokee-learning route or source a provider with a broad portfolio and the ability tohelp us customise content.” Following the research, the team spent six months on the exhibition andseminar circuit talking to suppliers. Cost and time factors meant a full-blownpurpose-built e-learning solution was not an option. However, because of theirvery specific needs, they knew that a wholly off-the-shelf product would be nogood either. After meeting with e-learning provider SkillSoft, it becameapparent that it would be possible to have a bit of both. “We found that the organisations which were strong at customisingdidn’t have a big enough range of courses and those that did have a decentlibrary weren’t able to offer customisation,” says Dawes. “Conversely, SkillSoft’s library contained more than 1,700 management,business and leadership modules across 21 curricula – representing in excess of5,000 hours of learning,” he says. The part-readymade, part-bespoke approach is not a typical solution requiredby clients, says SkillSoft UK managing director Kevin Young, but one that wasunderstandable given the context of the learning. “The feedback from users was that they found the learning points validbut wanted to see them in an NHS context,” he says. “Understandably,within a public sector environment like the health service, people feltuncomfortable with reference to sales and customers. As a result, the contentwas modified so that, although there were no changes to the generic learning,the images were changed to include doctors, nurses and a hospital environment.The language was adjusted so that it was more NHS-specific.” SkillSoft licensed its Course Customisation Toolkit to the NHS team andprovided training so courses could be modified in-house. This allowed the teamto merge the generic content and the NHS dialogue and visuals at a fraction ofthe cost of developing bespoke e-learning from scratch. Dawes and his team can now customise a course in 10 days and frequently doall the narration and writing themselves and, on occasion, star in thee-learning programmes. As a result SkillSoft’s involvement is now confined to a support role.SkillSoft’s Young, says: “The job has reinforced how the economies ofscale associated with generic content can enable customers to cost-effectivelycreate an end result that matches their e-learning needs. It has alsoemphasised the importance of being open and flexible in putting together asolution that matches each client’s requirements.” The pilot A pilot project was set up with 400 places allocated on a first-come,first-served basis. The course was advertised on www.nursingleadership.co.uk (nowthe gateway for all the courses) via an electronic newsletter, and on threeinternet user groups. Research had suggested there would be a high demand for the courses, whichwas borne out within three days by which time 100 volunteers had already comeforward. After three weeks there was a waiting list (69 per cent of thoseregistering found out about the course electronically, the others by word ofmouth). The average age of volunteers was 41 years with 10 per cent over 50. A number of factors unearthed in the research were substantiated by thepilot. For instance, staff often do not complete post-course assessments eventhough they enjoy the courses and apply them in practice. This, coupled withthe average time that staff spend taking a course (25 minutes) suggesting thatpeople prefer the bite-sized chunk approach – “going in, accessing theknowledge they require, and getting out again,” says Dawes. “Any future e-learning assessment strategy needs to take into accountthe reluctance of staff to complete courses in their entirety, even though theknowledge and skills are effectively applied,” he adds. Valuable feedback Sixty-nine per cent of students who had taken the SkillSoft course gaveexamples of how they had used what they learned in practice (for example, indealing with workplace stress, managing competing demands and so on) and 85 percent said they would recommend e-learning to friends and colleagues. The topfive suggested improvements were to make the e-learning more NHS-orientated,offer easier access, hold more group meetings and offer faster and moreinformation and guidance. Dawes also reported back with a number of other findings after the pilot,which he believes have a value for all sectors: – E-learning appeals to a wide age-group and is in demand by healthprofessionals inside and outside the NHS – and the UK – There is demand for leadership development at all levels – from directorlevel to the recently qualified clinician – There is a high demand for e-learning – the motivation is primarilypersonal development and personal interest, with less than 25 per centmotivated by career development – The most essential characteristic of an e-learning programme is that it isfree to users, and, ideally, offers some sort of accreditation – Facilitated e-learning (that which has a supervising tutor and/or aclassroom component) seems to have similar starting, completion andapplication-in-practice rates “Facilitated e-learning does not appear to be significantly moreeffective that automated e-learning,” says Dawes, “although itappears to be several hundred times more expensive.” Dawes estimates that the cost of each e-learning course per learner is 52p. The NHS is now half-way through the second stage of the project, which aimsto train up to 40,000 staff over two years and Dawes has lots of interest inthe project from elsewhere in the NHS – doctors, health visitors, allied healthprofessionals and managers are all using it, although it is primarily aimed atnurses. Five courses are currently up and running on the Nursing Leadership websitesite including modules on emotional intelligence, stress management, timemanagement, project management, dealing with difficult people and dealing withconflict. By Christmas it aims to have 20 courses up and running and based onthe success of the pilot, all future NHS training programmes will have ane-learning element. The NHS project proves that having a very dedicated in-house team, who areprepared to not only research the needs of the workforce but to roll up theirsleeves and shape the learning to suit the learners, can make the differencebetween success and failure in a project. In summarySuccess for The NHS leadership project The NHS aim To provide aprogramme of leadership training for nurses.Why? To liberate the talents of nurses which in turnwill improve performance and increase productivity.Is e-learning delivering? The 400-people pilot was agreat success and provided valuable user feedback. It is too early for ROIfigures, but Dawes reports that each course costs only 52p per learner, amassive saving on previous classroom-based training.NHS top tips – Fit the learning around people’sexisting work-life balance and do not demand a large commitment– Make content available over the internet– Make it available in bite-size chunks Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.