Professional Development

Encouraging Lifelong Learning in a Chaotic Environment

Practicing lifelong learning at home


mariannalmenokhoevaLifelong learning, together with upskilling and reskilling are growing terms, defining the new normal of our life learning continuum. How often do we find ourselves having the same feelings as Lewis Carroll’s character Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, while thinking about our own knowledge and skills: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

But can we discuss lifelong learning without the current economic landscape? Or the impact of COVID-19 on the democratization of information? What about articulating the growing complexity and cross-disciplinary nature of modern knowledge? Or mapping the most demanded skills for defining the optimal new skill pathways?

To address these areas, we’ll zoom in and out on the multiple facets and approaches to lifelong learning in healthcare.

Why learn?

The pandemic brought all of us to uncertainty and raised many questions around the outlook for the labour market and the future of jobs and skills under the arrival of new technologies.

Prior to the pandemic, healthcare was the only sector of the economy which showed the closest to previous year’s hiring rate with stable growth, according to The Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum. And health spending globally is expected to rise at a 3.9 compound annual growth rate through 2024.

Healthcare is one of the most affected sectors of the COVID-19 pandemic and during this time has demonstrated disruptive changes. Rapid digital transformation is going through adoption of a wide range of technologies from telehealth, connected devices and the internet of things to big data analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

From the other side, there are direct signs of growing tension in talent supply and expectations coming from employers. The global talent shortfall, anticipated until 2025, is expected to leave a gap of more than 1 million healthcare practitioners and technical support staff needed in the United States alone. The global needs-based shortage of healthcare workers is projected to be 14 million in 2030 based on World Health Organization report, Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health.  

These trends seem to be influencing business leaders’ expectations, with 94% saying they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. It’s also anticipated that 50% of all employees will need reskilling during the next five years.

What to learn?

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” –Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Despite both reskilling and upskilling requiring new knowledge and skills, the aim of reskilling is a new career, while upskilling is necessary to keep track within the current career path. In the micro level, reskilling and upskilling describe individual needs, but on the macro scale they reflect the global shift towards digital transformation and automatization.

Mapping the main domains of personal knowledge and skills can be helpful in identifying gaps and defining our personal time, effort and investments in order to build new skill pathways. Moreover there are tools to calculate the average time and investments to achieve a certain level of proficiency within groups of necessary skills, moving from beginner to advanced stages. The time-to-skill or time-to-skillset metric is critical for planning ahead for individuals and organizations.

For example, knowledge about a country’s healthcare system can include, but is not limited to the system’s basic structure and funding, fundamental principles of work, key institutions and participants, and their roles and responsibilities. It is also useful to have an understanding of the system’s unique metrics, quality measurements and ethical frameworks, interoperability requirements, and cybersecurity and data privacy rules.  

And what about soft and social skills? Despite obvious dominance of analytical skills (science, math and programming) in IT, important fundamental skills—like critical thinking, active listening, reading comprehension and speaking—are highly valuable in the industry.

After mapping the personal landscape of knowledge and skills, and defining and comparing different learning pathways, it’s much easier to choose the next step.

How to learn?

Among the major barriers for reskilling or upskilling are the basics of daily life. Today we are surrounded by discussions about personal efficiency, optimal performance and work-life balance. There are plenty of science-based daily protocols which are valuable for improving learning, creativity, focus, and brain and body health.

Nowadays lifelong learning is a combination of formal and informal learning styles. While we study specific courses and curricula within academia or online in a systematic and intentional way, we also consume new information through the day-to-day working environment, especially within multidisciplinary and diverse expert working groups. Formal and informal learning pathways only add value for the individual and the group. But the formal approach, together with professional certification, precisely define the individual learner’s skill proficiencies.     

Education can come in a variety of forms these days including mobile apps and online courses. Online learning is seeing four-times enrolment growth for individuals and nine-times growth for government-supported online programs. New approaches in online studying can be characterized by visible trends towards personalized education and by high attention to applied learning. For example, many courses already include COVID-19 case studies.

Online learning is an efficient tool to compliment all traditional ways of acquiring new knowledge and skills through day-to-day work, conferences, seminars and studying at universities and other institutions.

Continuing the Learning Journey

It’s no use going back yesterday, because I was a different person then.” –Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

No matter at what stage of our career we are in, how many years we spent working in healthcare or IT, lifelong learning is one of the mutual aspects of our lives.

And we shouldn’t forget that learning journey is happening on the constantly changing landscape and in repetitive cycles, that’s why it’s called lifelong learning.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.