04th February 2020 Written by Megan Sutton, Learning Specialist

Image: Winter pressures.The last thing you want to hear when you’re drowning from the additional influx of patients during the winter months is that you need to do some additional training. There is no way you can have the headspace to contemplate additional learning, and you’ll probably be pulled away at the last second.

At Skills for Health, our mission is to help make that learning easy to access, enjoyable to do, and meaningful long term, however we also understand that whatever we do, there are going to be real-world challenges that could get in the way. 

So, we’ve put together our top five tips on how to manage your learning, even when you’re already juggling ten plates. Whilst there’s no magic wand, it’s important to find techniques that can support in maintaining a semblance of balance.

Check what is coming up

If it’s training you need to do every year or so, there will be deadlines for you to do it. If you can find out when the training is coming up, you will have a chance to plan ahead, and potentially do some of the training early when you may possibly be less busy (emphasising the word ‘possibly’).

Skills for Health suite of learning and compliance solutions includes nationally recognised elearning, compliance tool WIRED and Learning Management solution LearnSpace, based on Totara Learning.

Our range of learning and compliance solution enables all staff members to quickly access information on when their courses are coming up for renewal.  I was asked by HR last week to do my moving and handling course. I instantly went to WIRED, checked if anything else was coming up and planned in time to complete another one that was due in a few weeks. It meant I was doing training on my terms, rather than waiting for another email from HR which would put sudden and unanticipated pressure on me.

Little and often

Don’t overload yourself by saying you will do all your training in one go. 

The chances of completing everything in one go is small and you will most probably go for speed over learning. Completing learning in bite-sized chunks enables you to retain more knowledge, and you stand more of a chance of getting through all the training. You will most probably enjoy it more too!

There is also evidence to show that learning in smaller spaced sessions dramatically increases retention, as you are revisiting the subject. I like the idea that learning is like walking through a wood. At first there is no path, it’s hard to push through the trees to where you want to get to. The more you walk that route, the more a path is defined, and it gets easier to get to the end goal. That path will stay there and be somewhere you can easily walk in the future. Learning is the same, the more you do it, the easier that path is to walk.

Plan, plan, plan

This comes with a caveat…don’t beat yourself up if you miss a slot. 

Prioritising is not easy, particularly when the pressures during winter increase, and it is very easy to put the difficult things off. It never ends well!  It may sound impossible but try to plan in times for you to catch up with your training. If you give yourself set times, it will enable you to get in the right mindset, and will most likely mean you get through quicker, as you are ready to learn.

Choose the right environment

It’s not just about higher patient volumes creating a higher workload, the time of year has an impact too. 

The dark mornings and rainy and windy weather (unless you love these things), means it’s harder to be positive and engaged. Whether you call this Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just are more of an ‘any other season’ person, it does mean that training feels like more of a chore. Try to find an environment where you feel comfortable and engaged, with plenty of natural light wherever possible. An environment with as few distractions and potential interruptions means you will have the headspace to really engage with you learning, and remain focused, learning and retaining more effectively.

Think about what training needs might be coming up

Think ahead to any challenges you may face during winter

If there is any training that you think might help you support patients during the winter months, it’s worth refreshing your knowledge on the subject. It may just give you some useful information for a patient, or guidance that will help with a query. Training is always adapting and changing with legislation and ways of working, so there’s always something new for you to learn.

Most courses are updated annually, but courses like the Skills for Health Immunisation and Vaccination course are updated every few months with new guidance and expertise as the green book is changed and amended. As anyone who is involved in immunisation will know, there is a change every few months, so it’s good to keep your knowledge fresh!

Finally, don’t just use these tips during winter, they can be used any time of year, and will support you in getting the most out of your training.

Get in touch today to find out more about Skills for Health’s suite of elearning and learning management tools to help you manage your training.