A New Year…New Learning

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“FUN + Learning = The Best Educational Experience”
― Tamara L. Chilver

Joan Devine

Joan Devine, RN, BSN

Director of Education, Pioneer Network

When we think about learning, our thoughts often go to the formal education we receive in school, or perhaps the in-service training that we attend at work. But learning is so much more than this — it is a never-ending process that can and does happen anywhere and everywhere.

When I think of some of my favorite learning experiences, I think of times when the experience was inspiring, thought-provoking, engaging, interactive, often spontaneous and FUN!

One of my earliest recollections of this comes from my childhood, back in the ’60s with fond memories of rainy evenings at our family cottage in Michigan. We had no TV, but there was this wonderful book that you could always find on the shelf. It was a book of facts, set up in question and answer format. I guess you could say it was the original version of Trivial Pursuit. We would all sit around and quiz each other. I remember nursery rhymes was a favorite category, but history was always fun as well. You knew how old the book was when you would come to questions about “the great war.” Together, we would fill in the facts that happened since the book had been published, and there was a lot of sharing by the elders in the family who had lived that history.

A modern-day version of this happened a few summers ago sitting on the deck with my daughter and several of my grandkids. Somehow, the subject of the great Chicago fire came up, and for the next 20 minutes, the Googling on our cell phones was fast and furious as we asked questions, explored the history, and did a lot of laughing!

Then I think about learning in my professional career, and it makes me think of one of my very favorite in-services. I was the nurse manager of a small hospital-based skilled nursing unit and I had asked our Medical Director to do some staff training. The day of the in-service he showed up, not with handouts and a formal presentation, but with a bucket full of slips of paper. We all sat down together, the nurses, CNAs, activity staff, and therapists, and one by one, we pulled out those slips of paper. Written on them were things like “foley catheter,” “Lasix,” “blood thinners,” and “fall risk.” As each slip was read, we would go around the table sharing what this meant from our perspective. For example, with foley catheter, our Medical Director shared why and when he would order one, the nurse, his/her daily assessment, the CNA, how he/she cared for it. Together we discussed the topic, learning from each other, and about each other!

I share these stories of learning in the hope that they will inspire you to come up with some fun new ideas for bringing learning to your team in 2021. And why not start by getting the team involved in designing the program? Perhaps you could hold some learning circles, asking questions to help you better understand what would make learning fun. Ask each person to share their favorite memory of learning together with family or friends or about their favorite in-service. Then ask them about what topics they want to learn more about or what THEY would like to teach the team.

Or how about trying a new approach to teaching something that is required learning, like policies and procedures? Whether you use a written manual, or explore an on-line version, how about playing a variation of my childhood trivia game? Take a policy and start by asking everyone what they think is included in that policy. Then check it out and see what you missed, or perhaps, what you might want to add based on the discussion. And wouldn’t it be great if residents were part of this learning? Like the elders in my family who filled in the missing history, they can provide what is too often the “missing voice.”

In the spirit of a transformed culture, we at Pioneer Network would not ask anything of you that we do not also ask of ourselves. Over the past few months, the Education Committee, along with the staff and board of directors, have spent countless hours exploring ideas for how we can provide education and training to those who entrust us to do that each year. While we don’t want to forsake those things that you have come to expect, like our webinars, we know that you are looking for something new and different, like our new “Listen, Learn, Explore” series, using Podcasts and virtual learning circles and our virtual symposium planned for March, “Exploring the Future: Exploring Lessons Learned.”

We invite you to join us in 2021 for what we hope will be an adventure in learning where together we will find new ways to make learning innovative, meaningful, memorable and fun! Be sure to check out our video to learn more about Pioneer Network’s 2021 Education plan, and we’d love to hear what you have planned for making learning fun in your community.