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Improving Environments for Learning

The Future is Now; What next?

There was a flurry of activity through the sliding glass door.  The embedded image captures the essence of what I saw, and what bird lover could complain?  Dozens of orange-breasted barn swallows had alighted on the railing and floor of the deck just beyond my desk.  They were busy.  Exchanging one perch for another.  Chirping at one another.  Resting briefly.  Flitting from railing to floor and back again in a hunt for insects.  They returned the next day, and the next.  And then they left.

In a flight (couldn’t resist!) of fancy, I thought of our June 25 gathering in Denver for our First Annual Conference when we all came together for a day and affirmed our community.  We gathered from different regions of the country, representing a variety of professional roles.  We found common ground, enriched by sharing knowledge and expertise, asking questions and discovering solutions, creating a path forward.  We connected.

We came together because we share a commitment and belief in the importance of NP postgraduate training.  We talked, listened, and networked.  We contemplated next steps.  We fed our professional souls.  And then we left.

So, what now?  How do we stay connected?  How do we sustain our community?

Throughout the Consortium’s Conference we heard about emerging best practices in postgraduate NP training, interprofessional training and practice, and the national landscape for workforce development.  There were collegial breakouts on curriculum, evaluation, mentorship, on creating and sharing evidence, and on being a program director.  As we work to create the learning environments we need, we are weaving the fabric of excellence.  A common thread in our community is sharing – connectedness.

And it’s in the air.  In April, the Macy Foundation sponsored a conference on Improving Environments for Learning in the Health Professions.  Invited representatives from all the health professions –educators, practitioners, administrators and researchers– convened to identify and disseminate best practices through “actionable recommendations” focused on improving learning.  The conference recommendations identified the current state of research and practice in health professions’ education, and developed actions to improve that education.

And they defined essential terms: learning environment, learner, and core elements of learning spaces.

Learning environments are “created when people come together to share knowledge, skills, and information to improve the performance of all involved.”  Such environments can be formal or informal and occur within almost any kind of setting, including a virtual one.  Exemplary learning environments “create an inviting learning environment that fosters well-being and health for all.”  Learners participate in a “continuously learning and improving health system” where “every participant is both a learner and a teacher.  Participants include … trainees, and researchers enrolled in formal educational programs as well as practitioners, educators, administrators, staff, patients, families, and community members.” Further, the report identifies the core elements of “learning spaces”: safety, engagement, connectedness, infrastructure, access and climate.

I connect, especially, with the concept of “connectedness”, that sense of belonging within a community of individuals in every phase of professional development from novice to expert; all life-long learners who come together to create and share knowledge, expertise and wisdom.

The Macy report concludes with this:

“This is a critical moment in health professions’ education reform. To achieve the goal of aligning education and health care delivery to improve the health of the public, we must focus more attention on the environments in which both learning and work occur. Patients, learners, educators, and practitioners will all be the beneficiaries of this endeavor. The recommendations from this conference serve as an urgent call-to-action for health professions’ education and health care organizations to transform the environments in which current and future generations of practitioners, educators, and learners work and learn—with the ultimate goal of better health for all.”

The report provides a blueprint to enhance and invigorate interprofessional learning, training and practice by encouraging continuous learning by all.  Our community of supporters and practitioners in the NP postgraduate training movement continues to focus on identifying, implementing and sharing best practices. Our engagement and connectedness in the clinical training environment is nourished by the energy and insight gained from our Conference in Denver. Now we need to sustain it.

What inspires you and how do you bring that idea to life in your setting?  How can the Macy Conference recommendations inform program development?

The next few blogs will explore these themes.  What steps will move us forward? How do we continue to grow the energy and connectedness we experienced at the Consortium’s First Annual Conference?Let’s continue to inspire, feed and sustain our community of colleagues with ideas, experiences and lessons learned.

Returning to the opening paragraphs about flocks of migrating birds that pause as a community to rest, to feed, to gain energy to move forward.  For our community, how do we know where are we going?  What do we want to achieve?  How do we sustain our connectedness?

Wishing you wisdom, inspirational flights of fancy, and a readily accessible community of colleagues,