Keeping your skills sharp: How healthcare professionals can stay up to date

Keeping your skills sharp: How healthcare professionals can stay up to date

Technology is improving at a break-neck speed; research is constantly churning out new discoveries and treatments; guidelines are being updated every few years.

If you add to this a full clinic or hospital workload, it’s easy to see why many healthcare professionals are claiming they feel like they are ‘falling behind’.

Keeping skills sharp and staying on top of advancements doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take commitment.

Here are some steps that, when taken regularly, can keep your skills as sharp as the day you walked out of college.

Age wisely

Results from a recent study conducted by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and published in the BMJ, found that patients treated by younger doctors had significantly lower mortality compared with those treated by older doctors.

Researchers have been quick to point out that the results do not prove that older doctors are simply not as good as their younger counterparts, rather that with age comes an increasing skill divide.

They believe that the further healthcare professionals move away from formal study, the more they move away from the latest developments and knowledge of new treatments.

Staying up to date with medical journals and attending medical conferences can lessen that skill divide, as can seeing more patients.

Interestingly, the study revealed that doctors who saw a large volume of patients had a high success rate, regardless of their age, suggesting that seeing a lot of patients might keep doctors up with advances in treatment.

Maintain your maths

It used to be that people were either considered a ‘maths person’ or not, but what we know now is that maths is a skill that people can actually develop, and one that all healthcare professionals should grow and maintain.

This is especially true of nursing. It’s essential that nurses have good working knowledge in areas such as proportions, analysing ratios and calculating rates and conversions.

Consider the measuring of vital signs, where speed can be critical. If a healthcare professional takes a heart rate for 15 seconds and then multiplies it by four, they can estimate the number of heartbeats per minutes, quickly and efficiently.

Keeping maths skills sharp requires diligence. Set aside time every week to study the mathematical concepts you need to know. Find relevant formulas and then practice them over and over. You will be surprised how quickly a formula becomes second nature the more you apply it.

Varied learning

In any field, the most effective training comes from a mixture of formal and informal learning, and the healthcare sector is no different.

Evaluation is crucial to professional development. It should be ongoing and include a combination of self-assessment, peer review and patient feedback.

Similarly, there should be a mix of formal and informal learning. Casual discussions with peers and members of your team, including mentoring, can be just as powerful as attending extra courses, study days and conferences.

Online courses or distance education is a great way to keep skills sharp, especially for those working irregular hours who might otherwise not be able to attend classes.

Then there’s the simple practice of reading. Subscribe to (and make sure you regularly read!) journals, books and newspapers that relate to your medical speciality.

Remember, it’s never too late to take charge of your professional development.

How do you keep your skills sharp? Tell us how you stay up to date by sharing your tips in the comments section below.

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