Everyone I meet in health care and public health wants to do well at their job, and move the needle on health equity. The problem is that when it comes to professional development, too often stand-alone, one-time courses are all people get. Here’s why they don’t work at making change.
As an educator, one of the problems I’m addressing now is an education problem. Everyone I meet wants to do well at their job. That’s not the problem. The problem is that when it comes to professional development, too often these kinds of stand-alone courses are what people get, and these are not great for effecting change.
Hi everybody, I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel. This is “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. I want to say “Hi,” because we’ve got lots of new listeners. We’ve had more of those days where we’ll get more than a thousand downloads in a day! This is super exciting! Because after 5 years, more than 5 years of doing this, to have new listeners and to see the community keep growing, that’s amazing to me! Lots of shows plateau, and we’re not! You’re hanging in there with us, so thank you! And if you’re new, I want to welcome you.
And if you didn’t know, I founded HCP in 2017 after a few years of working in the education sector and health sector simultaneously. And my purpose was basically to help bring the best of what I knew could be helpful in the health sector from the education sector, over. So I made the Health Communication Partners website to be a resource hub. And I thought one of the other ways to get the word out would be to start a podcast series with my brother Joe, grateful for his help still, all these years. And my purpose I guess overall being to let people in healthcare and public health know there is a whole body of knowledge that can help with some of the tough problems you’re facing.
Over the years, people have shared with me their stories, their typical day-to-day’s, and their pains, and the pressures they’re under. And that’s what makes this show tick. These episodes are about the issues faced, the concerns raised, the problems experienced by people in the health sector from your perspective. A lot of times we’re told in our professional lives, in our professional development, we’re told what to focus on or what to care about.
I take a different approach: I ask you what you feel is important, what’s on your mind, what you are seeing, what keeps you up at night. And I’m not making polite conversation, although I guess it is that, too. This is absolutely intentional; this is reflective practice. And it’s based in my belief that as professionals, we can enhance our own learning when we reflect on our typical day-to-day’s, the issues that we face, when we follow our curiosity about the problems we experience.
This flies in the face of most of the dominant conceptions of professional learning that we’ve all inherited. This series, I guess you could say, supports people who are questioning dominant narratives, common denominators, or dominant stories. Specifically, I give tools that are grounded in equity and justice. From the research, to the terminology that I use, to the paradigms, and traditions, and ways of working. Even the show itself as a space, a small tiny little ten-minute space, where we can imagine alternatives.
I take you seriously, as seriously as you take your patients and clients. I respect your knowledge as you respect theirs. I take our teaching and learning process–because that’s what I consider this show to be–I take our teaching and learning process in this show as seriously as you take the teaching and learning processes with your patient interactions.
So as I said, one of the problems I’m facing now as an educator is an education problem, with the education of health professionals. It’s true for everybody, it’s true for health professionals, too. And that’s that, as we all want to grow and learn, it’s that often we’re faced with just stand-alone, one-shot courses.
It’s a dirty secret of professional development that one-shot workshops don’t work. You know it from experience, and the data backs you up. One-shot courses alone do not lead to substantive change. That’s what a lot of the conversation was about when unconscious bias or implicit bias became a big deal, one-shot workshops all over the place, and by themselves they’re just checking a box and we know it. It’s not our fault. We’re all clever people here, we’re all lifelong learners, and I bet you can wring some learning out of anything. Even a one-time, one-shot, standalone course….that are still the bulk of what counts as professional development.
And any good that does happen is often down to happenstance. Maybe you happened to personally choose, individually, to carry something out of that course and you put it to use and stayed at it. Maybe, maybe not. But like I’ve said before, the connection between what is done and said in those kinds of one-shot workshops and what is done and said in ‘real work’ is often left for participants to figure out for themselves. Or to hope for some kind of magical transfer of these ‘add on’ activities to everyday work, once the course ends. The responsibility is on you to find a way to make it work. If you don’t, well that’s on you.
It’s simply that that one-shot structure doesn’t make change because it’s not designed to. Stand-alone courses or workshops can raise awareness, yes. Can be thought-provoking, yes. Maybe some collaboration will happen if you’re lucky. There’s myriad other things that can happen in and through a standalone session. But change? No. Not by the best, most compelling educator on the planet, to the most motivated audience ever. Unless there’s some kind of follow-through. Some structure, some strategy, to keep it going.
And this is a little bit depressing, because over the years being a consultant in healthcare and public health, I keep being told that “that’s all we’re gonna get.” And I know everyone is overscheduled, and always being given one more thing to do. So when I set out to design professional development on the topics I get asked about the most, I had to work within that, and I had to come up with a solution.
Last year, you know I debuted Foundations of Equitable Interpersonal Communication in Health. And I typically talk about it at the beginning of the show, right? Right now I’m working on version 2.0, revisions and additions including feedback from people who’ve already taken it.
But there is something I need to tell you about Foundations of Equitable Interpersonal Communication in Health. And it’s this: when you take the course, it includes live time with me.
That’s right. It’s self-paced video, it’s me teaching and talking to you, and when everyone’s done, we meet live. Because I am serious about follow through, and helping you use what you’ve learned and make the change you got into this to make. Because working for equity is not easy. I’m a former public school teacher and a teacher educator I know what the stakes are! You’re taking care of kids and families! That’s why I care enough about what you do to take time with you to talk about it.
The thing about my approach that’s quite different from other consultants, and even a lot of educators, is reflective practice. It’s practitioner based at its heart. Like I’m not coming in and plonking down a course on you, and saying, “Good luck! Bye!”
When you take my course you get time with me after to ask questions, get specific, and get started applying what you’ve learned–in your specific workplace, your sphere, your unique context. It’s about you. For this, I have to thank my mentor at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Lytle, and her specific way of enacting reflective practice with equity at its core, informing everything.
Our organizations are charged with moving the needle on equity. So organizations also have the option to have me work with you further, bringing structure and strategy–again from the University of Pennsylvania–ways of working for equity at individual and systems levels, that have been proven over decades all around the world. I bring specific structure and strategy and we work together I show you how you can use them over time in your organization on locally-meaningful, locally-relevant ways to affect change.
That’s an option for organizations, to get you my course plus strategy consulting wrapped around it. I love working with organizations like this. It’s efficient because everybody gets to take the course in their own time, and you’ve got my strategy consulting to go along with it. As I was getting together my notes for this episode, I got an email from someone at one of the organizations who’s doing this, I’m working with now, the course plus consulting, and I’m not making this up, there was a sentence in the email that said and I quote, “I absolutely love the work you’re doing.” That means the world to me to be able to help as a consultant alongside being an educator.
Regardless, when your organization purchases access to Foundations of Equitable Interpersonal Communication in Health for you and your colleagues, it includes a one hour, live, group meeting for the course participants, with me, after everyone finishes the course. Because I’m serious about making progress on equity and so are you. This has been “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. Audio engineering by Joe Liebel, music by Joe Liebel and Alexis R.