Why Does Primary Care Training Sometimes Fail?

I was chatting to a few practice manager colleagues last week and the topic got onto GP reception staff training – always of interest to a GP and training practitioner like myself. 

They were recalling past training sessions that had failed to have the desired effects; the change in behaviours, the way people just returned to the old ‘safe’ ways of doing things after a fortnight. I hasten to add they weren’t talking about Orr Medical Training of course but it got me thinking.

What are the most common reasons why primary care training fails? After working in the training field for many years, I’ve seen the following circumstances contribute towards why training – and group training in particular – doesn’t always go to plan plus how to resolve this.

3 Key Reasons For Training Failure

  • Staff are required to attend training without being given specific information about how it will specifically benefit them individually
  • Staff fail to fully engage with the training due to poor delivery methods
  • The training is delivered online rather than on a face to face basis leading to a lack of engagement.

Let’s break these down a little further.

Sending an employee to learn something that’s not instantly applicable to their everyday to-do list is a massive time waster. Sometimes on my courses, I’ll also come across practice staff who have been sent on training they don’t feel they need either. Number one job for you as a practice manager: explain to me how this course is going to make my life (not Susan or Debbie’s) easier and give me ideas I can use immediately.

Next up – let’s talk training methods. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called in to ‘retrain’ teams because the previous training provider used outdated or boring training methods. Death by Powerpoint lectures, cringe-worthy ice-breakers or facilitators that dominate the discussions are all common culprits. And it’s really hard to have a good group discussion when the room is packed to the rafters. Even the most experienced trainer will struggle to check-in with each learner in this scenario.

And what about delivery method? Some courses are perfect to study online. Learners can study at their own pace, in their own time. Others that deal with any form of communication or practical task, I’d argue are always going to be more effective delivered face to face. Why? Because how else are staff going to learn the practical ‘how to’ examples and test these out safely for themselves?

Failed Training – An Expensive Problem

So nobody can deny the need for GP practice staff to have regular access to training courses. After all, training is key to delivering the high level of patient care that is essential at the point of delivery. However, when the training on offer fails to engage the staff who are attending, the financial impact can be serious. We know NHS funds are already severely limited. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer not to waste them on poor quality training. Not only is it a waste of money, it is also a waste of valuable NHS staff time who we desperately need onside. 

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to a practice manager who mentioned she had quite a young workforce in reception. The team had received some customer service training, but they reported back to the practice manager they hadn’t really got anything from it and the trainer had ‘droned on’ too much. When she told me this story, I knew the reason straight away. The trainer had failed to take today’s young people’s learning styles into consideration. Younger people learn differently nowadays and get bored very quickly. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact; they’re taught differently now too. If the training isn’t entertaining or they’re not called upon to interact and participate, the trainer has lost.

With general practice under considerable pressure, it’s vital to ensure that staff spend their time only on worthwhile activities that can genuinely improve the patient experience and service delivery.

Resolving The Problem

The good news is that there are many excellent training courses out there for NHS frontline staff which represent outstanding value for money. The key to their success lies in their high level of staff engagement and participation. By allowing attendees to interact with the material and by offering real-life, practical examples which staff can relate to, the best reception staff training courses achieve the desired goal of increasing staff knowledge and expanding their skillset so that they can deal more effectively with patients and ensure the best possible level of service and care at a potentially challenging time in their lives. 

How To Choose A Training Course For Your Frontline Staff

With so many GP practice staff training courses out there it can be hard to select the right one for your own frontline staff team. However, when it comes to finding an engaging, practical course that offers good value for money, there are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  • Always obtain case studies and testimonials from the course provider to ensure that previous course participants have been satisfied with the results.
  • Enquire about the trainer’s background. You need to be certain they have a strong understanding of the reality of working in a general practice environment, not just a generic trainer with no expert knowledge.
  • Find out how the course is delivered. Is it on a face to face basis? Does it involve practical activities and interactive elements? Is there a maximum delegate limit – smaller groups of less than 12 are best in our experience.
  • Does the course content sound like the previous training session you ran? Was it a success or could you spice things up with new trainers, different teaching styles especially for staff taking the same training again?
  • Ask about the training materials. Can you see an example of them to make sure they’re going to be in a format your team will understand and engage with afterwards and importantly, to make sure they are up to date?
  • What sort of follow-up training or support do they offer to participants? Will the provider bolt off into the sunset without so much as an email or phone number for support afterwards?
  • Finally – and this is a job for you – is the learning environment the best it can be? It sounds basic but learning can’t take place if people are too warm, too cold. Think about comfort. Think about the refreshments. Are they going to be distracted?

Orr Medical Training’s Outstanding Courses

I hope that’s given you plenty to think about and it goes without saying, when it comes to selecting the right training for your reception staff, Orr Medical Training are proud to offer some of the best courses around today. 

We only use dedicated experts in their field, not generic trainers, who can’t answer the difficult questions because they are out of their depth. We only use bang up to date course materials, written by the expert trainer themselves. We always provide follow up and support as part of all our training packages.

With many of our practical courses offered as engaging half day workshops, these courses are a valuable use of NHS funds and staff time, and there is even support on hand afterwards to ensure maximum benefit for staff in the long term. Browse our courses and let’s work together soon.