The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is the largest research organization for rehabilitation in the United States with four major cornerstones: patient care, research, advocacy and education. The organization provides education and rehabilitation best practices for all 1,200 of its employees, a large community of rehabilitation professionals and the patients and families who are touched by disabilities.
“The philosophy here would be leading-edge best practices and transferring research to the bedside,” said Jeff Oberlin, chief learning officer for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). “There’s a lot of education, especially on the clinical side, that is either managed by the RIC Academy or in services that are handled by a variety of specialists throughout the system.”
The Rehabilitation Institute uses a blended delivery approach that involves virtual and traditional classroom learning elements. “Right now we’re primarily using videoconferencing because a lot of our work is visual in nature,” Oberlin said. “It’s somewhat expensive, but we find that for our classroom-based programs, it really works at a distance. For lab-based programs, we have to be at the site. We try to figure out materials that individuals can read or participate in prior to the lab-based activities, but when we have to be hands-on, like in a casting course, you have to have on-site activity.”
Some 50 percent of all learning activities at the Rehabilitation Institute are lab-based in nature. Classes range from three to eight days in length and feature a wide variety of programs with demonstrations to accommodate larger audiences who may be located in other clinics. Oberlin addresses the challenges of training a disparate population by gathering input on what’s needed at each site and offering a course to address those specific needs. This means creating a schedule to allow clinicians to travel from site to site.
Unlike other organizations, the Rehabilitation Institute does not have a stable of preset courses to choose from. Programs typically are customized and run only once. “They’re built one time, delivered, then probably not run again for a couple of years, and then they have to be refurbished or refreshed. Things change, more research is done, (there are) changes in the discipline. There may be licensure requirements that come out of the state, as an example. We’ve got to address those, and those don’t occur again. We get everybody up to speed, then we move on to the next item. It’s definitely a moving target,” Oberlin said.
The training determination process involves a formal annual needs assessment, primarily on the clinical side, and decisions are made based on input from major disciplines, such as speech language pathology, occupational therapy, nursing and physical therapy. “We get some good information from each one of those populations. They have a form to fill out,” Oberlin said. “There are also themes or major requirements that we see are needed, such as pain management. We need to make sure that we’re keeping up with the trends, leading-edge experiences and applications. We do interviews with individuals within the population to fine-tune what the needs are, and then determine if there’s a specialist inside the system or if we need to go externally and bring somebody in to run a program. We work with that individual to make sure that we tailor the objectives to what’s needed. We also have what are called ‘practice counsels’ for the individual disciplines. They review content as well, or the results of the needs assessment. Then we find support from management to go forward.”
In a clinical atmosphere, metrics are not just a method by which to judge learning effectiveness. They are a required facet of training. “There’s a requirement for continuing education credits granted by the association. We have to make sure that all of these offerings are documented with clear and concise objectives that are measurable, etc.,” Oberlin said. “Secondly, we do standard evaluations for each of the classes. We’re determining what kind of results we’re getting out of the classes, the instructors, particular pieces of content, etc. Those are fairly detailed. It’s much more than a smiles test because there’s requirements by the association that we’re evaluating. We definitely get feedback very quickly when the techniques are applied in the workplace. There’s an expectation that we’re going to have effective individuals when they go back to the workplace. We’ve got some very demanding professionals here, and that makes the process more organic, but we see them very much as part of this process.”
“When you’re in a place like RIC, there’s no question about the mission of the organization because you see the mission every day,” Oberlin said. “Many organizations struggle with what they’re about. It’s pretty clear here—it’s primarily to help those with a disability be as productive as they possibly can be, to have a fulfilled life and a productive one, and there’s no question about the commitment of the individuals here.”
Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.