It’s time to rethink transferable skills in healthcare

5 min read


The idea of a doctor learning new skills from a sports professional or an actor might raise some eyebrows. Nevertheless, our CEO Andrew Malley was recently a guest on Kelly Ryan Bailey’s podcast Let’s Talk About Skills, Baby to discuss why our newly launched Mini-MBA in Healthcare features sports professionals — and why healthcare leaders owe it to their staff to think outside of the box when it comes to education.

If you want to listen to the whole talk, you can see it below — each week, Kelly chats with inspiring visionaries about the skills that make them successful, how they developed those skills, and their innovative approaches to improving skills-based hiring and learning around the world.

Transitioning from one role to another

The first question employers have to ask themselves when promoting employees into a new role is which skills are indeed transferable and which ones are not. The answer to this question might seem obvious, yet often, great clinicians find themselves promoted into leadership roles without receiving adequate training.

“When people think of exceptional leaders, the military is often brought up — they’re at a level of functionality where they’re robotic,” marvels Andrew. “But they aren’t born that way. In a given year of military service, you might go through six months of training. To get anywhere near the top, you would need to have at least four years of leadership education. That’s why they’re good at it. If you look at equivalent positions in healthcare, one could certainly argue that the job is no less important — leaders in both sectors make life or death decisions. However, health leaders are not getting six months of education in a given year.”


Andrew suggests giving health leaders — especially new ones — the tools they need to succeed. This means allowing them to bring in their background but also enable them to build up a set of new skills such as leadership theory, business and finance, as well as issues of compliance, that apply directly to their job.

“Our Certificate in Nurse Leadership with Duke CE contains a unit on finance for nurses. In our pre-course assessments with nurses, pretty much all of them indicated dreading finance. However, after having taken the program, it’s usually their favorite unit. That’s because the people who are teaching the program are nurses themselves — the best way to learn is from someone who has done it themselves. We’re giving nurses knowledge in finance, but it’s coming from their world and they are applying it to their world.”


Credentials that travel

But even when retention is maximized through providing access to relevant education, it’s no secret that employee turnover is very high in healthcare. This is why Andrew encourages healthcare leaders to embrace reality and think of the healthcare workforce in a holistic sense.

“It’s like a merry-go-round — the turnover of staff is huge; for example, 50% of nurses in large health systems leave within a year. So it’s not only important to keep people, but also to ensure that the people who come in after them have the skills you need. For example, while we could have worked on internal training programs for Dignity Health employees, we chose to operate as an independent workforce development business that serves other health systems and allows open enrollment. We bring in partners like Duke CE, Eller Executive Education, and Thunderbird School of Global Management because then we can develop credentials that are mobile — academic credibility travels. It’s wise from a business perspective for health systems to invest in credentials that travel because at some point, the people of health system A will come to health system B and vice versa. On top of that, it serves the common good.”


Not only learning from the best in healthcare, but also learning from the best in the world

In an innovative approach to healthcare education, DHGE’s newest program, the Mini-MBA in Healthcare, features Super Bowl winner Max Starks and Olympic medal-winning athletes John Godina and Ato Boldon to share an experience that not many people get to live through — rigorous training that culminates in peak performance at the most important sports events of the season. The rationale behind featuring these athletes in what could easily have been any another traditional business program is simple.

“You don’t need to find the best person in healthcare to do something, you need to find the best person in the world to do it and then apply the learnings to healthcare. In the light of COVID, we need to think about resilience, bouncing back, and refocusing. Personal athletes go through that because 9 out of 10 seasons don’t turn out how they’ve hoped. Regardless of whether the season has been a defeat or a win, they learn to refocus on the next season. They learn to channel their energy. They’re not only good because they’re naturally talented athletes, but also because of their mindset. It’s not 100% comparable, but it’s transferable. We’re using a unique voice that is interesting to listen to.”


In Andrew’s opinion, thinking outside the box when it comes to healthcare education, capturing human interest to teach, and providing academic quality along the way is the only way to move forward.

“We’re also currently in conversations with one of the best acting schools in the world to develop programs. At first glance, acting and healthcare don’t have much in common, but when you think of communication in healthcare, you never really know what’s coming that day and what situations and people you’ll have to deal with. Be it a nurse telling a family that someone has died, dealing with executives, or even team members, healthcare professionals need to learn to effectively articulate, respond, and improvise. Who can teach you that better than an actor?”

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