Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Certification offers hiring advantage to unemployed

Would you give preferential consideration to an applicant that had completed a course targeted to your specific product or service?

For example, if your shop sold shoes, and you needed a new store clerk, wouldn’t you consider someone who produced a Certificate in Selling and Fitting Shoes above another applicant, equal in other ways, without the training?

With the number of unemployed Americans increasing daily, many are looking to re-training to enter the field of health care – one field that continues to hire, despite the economic downturn.

It couldn’t come at a better time, either. The shortage of workers, especially in nursing and in direct care, is approaching the crisis stage in many areas.

At the same time, many workers are looking for a career that will give them something more than a paycheck; a sense of purpose and of making a genuine difference in peoples’ lives.

The challenges with traditional approaches to education are two-fold: first, admission to the majority of health care training programs is restricted by a limited supply of classrooms and qualified classroom educators. Second, the path to completion is long and costly, both in terms of real out-of-pocket dollars and time.

One solution: online certifications, provided by qualified educational sources, designed to give individuals the tools to become “job-ready.”

In healthcare, this can mean certification in the entry level field of caregiving, or in more advanced areas of study. Today, a flood of professionally skilled workers - newly unemployed - are seeking ways to transition their skills from other industries into the health care industry. While these certifications may not be an entry ticket directly to a job, or a job guarantee, they can significantly boost the individual’s chances of scoring a much-needed job, perhaps in a field new to the applicant.

After all, if you’re hiring, wouldn’t you consider someone with certified training in the area of your work above someone without it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Caregiving hits sandwich generation hard

Everyone I know is a member of the sandwich generation today. My friend, Melanie, spent the week at her father's bedside in the hospital, juggling her work, husband, friends and kids with her handy (and prohibited in the hospital) cell phone.

My friends Ken and Elaine cornered me at a dinner party Saturday night with questions about how to help his parents move out of their home into an assisted living community. And then how to keep his siblings from freaking out and throwing a fit when he achieves it.

It's not easy being a member of the generation whose parents are living longer than any before in history. My own aging mother, living happily and busily in a retirement community, takes the train at least twice a year to stay with her mother, who, at 98, is queen of her retirement community in northern Minnesota.

She called me during her last visit saying, "Grandma keeps falling and I don't know what to do. Can you talk to her and tell her to be a good girl and stop trying to get out of bed at night?"

My mother knows that it isn't helpful to talk down to older people - she taught me that when I was just a child.

But dealing with her own mother turns her into any other frustrated family member. She forgets to objectively look at what is causing my grandmother to fall, and to work on solutions. She reacts emotionally - as we all do when dealing with our family.

I'm just far enough away that I could talk through the situation with my mom and help her find some workable solutions. Turning my grandma's bed so that there was more room on the side she likes to use to get in and out means that she can fit her walker there (she couldn't before, leading to fall after fall). We talked about solutions like a smaller bed, half-rails for her to use to pull herself up and steady herself when she first gets up, maybe even a bed-side commode for night needs. There are logical ways to start addressing the problems of falling, at least in my grandma's case.

But at the moment, my mom was shaken up. She was upset, scared and frustrated. She acted like we all act when we feel helpless to solve the problems of our aging parents.

There is one thing we members of the sandwich generation are learning, though. Simply this: when we turn to other people for ideas, advice and support we can get through some of the toughest spots we face on this journey through life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Training for the healthcare future needs today

The economic and job loss news seems to get worse by the day. While the statistics are awful the personal stories are even worse. The ones that brought instant tears to my eyes were the stories of individuals in their 70s who thought their retirement funds were wisely and safely invested, only to have lost them all in the past few months. Now they, too, are looking for jobs.

During times of high unemployment another phenomenon occurs: the enrollment in colleges and training programs increases. Many people choose to use this as an opportunity for personal advancement, maybe entering into a new career entirely.

What an opportunity for building our healthcare profession, especially nursing and caregiving! What an incredible time for us to use all the technological solutions we can find to enroll more people into these training programs, instead of limiting them to classroom availability.

One of the local colleges recently advertised for a director of distance learning– I have to admit, the idea was tempting to me.

If someone made me in charge of the healthcare education universe today I know exactly what I’d do: I’d blow the walls off.

I’d create powerful, moving, engaging online courses that taught facts, skills, concepts and compassion.

I’d include, in every single healthcare course, emotion-grabbing content to help the learner understand the human element of care.

I’d make sure that all students really got the message of person-centered care, or they didn’t go on.

I’d create learning experiences to allow the person to move through learning at his own pace – not mine. If he already knew material, I’d let him advance quickly to new material. I wouldn’t hold one student back just because others didn’t yet know something – each person would advance at his or her own pace.

I’d incorporate social learning, too, encouraging students to share their stories, their life experiences and their thoughts what they were learning.

I’d challenge them to grow as people, at the same time they were growing as professionals.

I’d build a system that could train unlimited numbers of individuals, learning together in classroom made of the web, interacting with each other and with instructors through virtual class discussions and knowledge checkpoints.

And then I’d turn my well-trained students out to the world, to practice – and perfect - their new skills in clinical settings – where nurses and caregivers and compassionate, involved individuals are so desperately needed.

I may not get the chance to be in charge of this particular universe, but even in my own little world opportunities exist to change the world.

Or at least to change the way we train – and the way we care.

To get just a small taste check out the Caregiver Certification course our team has recently developed. It’s a fully online way to step well-prepared into a whole new helping profession.