Changing Trends in Continuing Education

Changing Trends in Continuing Education

by Jane Boston, M.Ed., BSW

The Medical Rehab profession has crossed many terrains through the years in approaches to advance the knowledge of the front line service providers. Graduates of physical, occupational and speech therapy programs launch new clinicians into the field with a remarkable volume of information from the starting line.

As in all areas of expertise, each learner processes their knowledge in their own way. The goal is to take medical concepts and apply them to each patient in a personal and practical means to lead to recovery. While some clinicians, find applying the knowledge innate, others require a more routine definition to lead to the desired results. What means have been most effective in aspiring the concepts from textbook to technical results? Looking at the trends through the years may shed some light on this question.

In the 1960's new clinicians sought job settings that afforded them mentors to study under more seasoned professionals. While apprenticeship approaches were never formally claimed, the same effects were gained as those with time-tested expertise enlighten the beginner therapists.

In the 1970's more access to national expertise begin to be publicized and medical rehab facilities reached beyond their own walls to send their hired hands to seminars and workshops with proven or new-found concepts like NDT and Sensory Integration. Nationally recognized programs emerged in the field with names like Maitland and McKenzie bringing an organized approach to apply concepts that were backed by track records for results.

In the 1980's money flowed in medical rehab settings, as Medicare payments for most services were not under caps. Sending professionals to the latest and greatest seminars seemed like a must. My years in rehab began at this point as a medical social worker and then as the Executive Director of 250-employee rehab center with all levels of outpatient care. As an administrator, it was common for therapists to remind me of their training expectations by saying, "I can't go anywhere for less than $1000." The Medical rehab professional was respected mostly because of the ravenous appetite each therapist carried for learning the most current treatment protocols.

The thinking at that time was that training directly under nationally known instructors or nationally recognized programs benefited the local facility as knowledge was brought back to the front line of the community.

The expectation for the employer to pay for CEU level courses continued well into the 1990's until the Balanced Budget Act brought medical rehab funds to a screeching halt. At the same time administrators were facing these cuts, licensing Boards were adding and legislating CEU requirements for renewal. By the mid 1996 era, training funds were the first to be cut as facilities scrambled to operate under new financial limitations. Medicine was changing at a rapid-fire rate even while clinicians that cared about their patients wanted to be on the cutting edge of recovery techniques. Therapists pushed for more training at a time when budgets resources were at the worse.

New trends emerged and so did Motivations Inc, with a concept to bring facilities together to pool their training dollars and bring the national experts into the area, saving travel costs, clinic downtime and hassle. While it might have appeared a risky time to start a training company, clearly a need for a less expensive access was rising faster than the river of red tape for documentation in therapy. By early 2001, Motivations Inc. joins together hundreds of medical facilities rehab providers to select from over 100 courses taught by 40 of the nations instructors.

What are today's trends? Four distinct directions can be seen emerging. Facilities now want to control the CEU budgets more directly for added value to their strategic plan. As leaders and management teams look at the best way to advance their goals and objectives, facilities are taking new steps to double the value of their still limited CEU budgets.

Improved Hosting Arrangements

Most facilities have at some point put the effort into offering their own CEU course. After just one self-managed seminar, the time spent in planning, marketing and management is convincing evidence that there must be an easier way. Facilities have for some time seen the value in lending their meeting space for free seats to seminar companies. Today the best concept goes beyond the original plan by offering incentives for increased registrations. By hosting arrangements that offer more complimentary seats based on turnout, both the seminar provider and the facilities benefit. And by allowing facilities to actually use their seminar as a fundraiser for their training budget, we have found the perfect win-win arrangement.

Private Sponsorship Arrangements

Trends that make sense include selecting training to be brought to the site, for a private in-house offering. As management seeks a strategic plan that focuses and directed the company's service menu, training by national experts brought in-house can support the goal at the least expensive price per person available. CEU requirements can be met without travel or hassle and national experts can engage the whole team. How many times have learners wanted to immediately converse with their fellow worker on a new concept? An in-house course allows the whole team to work in unison on a new program or service line. First hand knowledge for the team together is a NOW trend for continuing education, thus avoiding the loss in translating information back through in-service approaches.

Promotional Course Arrangements

The newest trend of all can be found in the really smart forward thinking administrative strategy to build a course for the dual purpose of training their staff, while promoting their facilities and their recruitment needs to attendees. Spending recruitment dollars to fund training is clever, resourceful and healthy in promoting the facility and the professions served. Some companies have underwritten tuition costs to attract larger audiences allowing for outreach and recruitment to their job openings. All involve benefit and recruitment funds are multiplied when used for training some of their own staff too. A real retention builder!

Technology is changing CEU course trends as well

On-line courses, and live videoconferences are moving forward in most the fields. These products, while useful, will always be perceived as secondary to the preferences to see, touch, test and practice the concepts. Therapists are active people by nature. They selected the rehab fields because they value communication and interaction. Training through these means has the best application for knowledge not relating to direct clinical practice. Better options for live video interactions are emerging.

What can we expect in the year 2010? Degree programs for medical rehab professionals continue to raise the bar on expectations to practice. National Associations will look for ways to better serve the training need. Wellness programs will be an extension of the rehab process within the rehab protocols. Two-way live video conferencing is emerging as a possible course of action for lab experience courses - a new direction we are seeking this year. And therapists will never stop wanting more training to help them deal with the demands of desperate patients seeking their guidance for a full recovery.

Jane Boston is the President of Motivations, Inc, an accredited continuing education company that serves medical rehab professionals on a national level.