Every 15 to 30 seconds, knowledge that’s not critical to a person’s day-to-day job is discarded, according to the Atkinson-Shiffrin Memory Model. The challenge in any learning environment is making new knowledge or skills “stick” so students can apply lessons learned in the long-term. This challenge — combined with the importance of tailoring learning approaches and programs to a specific business — presents an opportunity for companies to explore ways to truly help employees retain important information.
In the medical device field, for example, this process becomes even more critical — there’s no luxury of forgetting lessons when life or death situations are involved. But making learning stick isn’t easy. It means facilitation skills and coursework must be attention grabbing, interesting and make meaningful connections to the employees’ prior knowledge or experience every 15 to 30 seconds.
Individualizing training to consistently engage each employee so he or she selectively attends to instruction requires effort or forced attention, which means developing learning sessions, materials and activities built primarily around engaging employees through an experiential, deliberate and difficult simulation-based practice methodology. Essentially, the methodology promotes learning by doing. Individuals make and correct mistakes and repeat these activities until they are fluent — like learning to ride a bike by actually riding a bike.
B. Braun Medical Inc., a medical device manufacturer, developed a two-day, effort-based advanced learning program aimed to ensure that sales representatives — some of whom have nursing backgrounds — are clinically competent and confident performing the clinical procedure in which the IV catheter they sell is used. During the session, B. Braun tenured sales staff members participated in an intensive training course where they repeatedly practice IV catheter insertion with prosthetic arms and virtual computer-based haptic simulations.
This type of effort-based learning essentially forces participants to attend to instruction because they are immersed in learning how to use the products they sell in the same way they’re used by clinical customers in hospitals around the world.
In addition to intensive practice sessions, there are also high expectations and criteria tied to the activities. Sales representatives need to achieve a score of 90 to 100 percent on their procedural performance with no critical errors.
The program begins and ends with a knowledge and performance-skills assessment. In the skills assessment, each student receives a doctor’s order and plays the clinician role. The class facilitator and one observer then assess each student’s performance against a 30-step checklist.
All participants in the advanced training program have experienced an average knowledge gain of more than 20 percent and an average skills performance gain of more than 24 percent. Further, since adoption of a simulation-based, effort-based IV catheter training curriculum, IV catheter annual sales growth increased from 1.5 to 9 percent, product trial to conversion rate increased from 25 to 95 percent and customer post-conversion retention rate improved from 40 to 85 percent.
Deliberate practice with simulation-based training is critical to ensure lessons translate into practice. At B. Braun, hands-on, effort-based training helps participants stay actively engaged and retain more knowledge and skills, ultimately leading to increased sales. The instructional design of these programs requires more preparation time and effort, but in the long run, it’s worth the investment and can help companies achieve key business objectives.
Kevin R. Glover is vice president, corporate communications, clinical education and sales training, and Connie Murray is director of clinical education and sales training at B. Braun Medical Inc. They can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.