Effective peer to peer learning can be pivotal in changing behaviours and helping us to achieve excellence in healthcare – Dr Andrew McCulloch
It’s often said that the key to getting better at something is first knowing what you are doing wrong. Whilst this is true to an extent, what is often understated and missed is that we must equally know what we are doing right, and ensure we keep doing it, for any improvement to be realised and success to be sustained long term.
Never is this more apparent than in a healthcare setting. Negative accounts and stories dominate public and professional communication, as well as the bulk of healthcare focused media coverage. Constantly reinforcing what’s not working or going well in the service, despite the many incidences of the highest quality care being delivered day in, day out, across the system, does not offer us positive reinforcement. Alongside this, healthcare professionals are trained to identify problems and then fix them. In the process of diagnosing negative symptoms and evaluating risks, it is possible to become very proficient at training our brains to identify what’s not going well in any given situation, sometimes missing positive learning opportunities.
Organisations like the Patient Experience Network (PEN) and their supporting PEN Awards, give those in the healthcare service an opportunity to reflect on some of these hugely impactful examples of what is going well. More importantly, it reinforces the value of celebrating the positive impact of repeating and growing positive behaviours. Sharing how we can use these positive experiences can be a driving force in identifying and supporting improvement in those areas where we must do better.
By providing a platform for people to share their experiences and successes with other organisations, the PEN Awards make it easy for staff to learn not simply academically, but through the sharing of positive practices and behaviours. This peer to peer learning is not only practically effective but it also pushes many key buttons for behavioural change. Inspiring and encouraging debate, celebrating innovation, and building confidence to think and act beyond the status quo. In this way PEN is setting the bar for sharing best practice.
The awards also show us that it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. If something is clearly working, continue to make it work for you. Or as Ruth Evans of PEN herself says; “steal with pride.” If another organisation is already achieving something that you want to improve on, it is possible to work together to translate models of care across organisations. Platforms of this nature serve as a reminder that some of the best results come from collaboration. By connecting services we can increase the speed, scale and sustainability of quality improvement initiatives.
PEN and their partners’ spheres of influence mean examples can be shared and spread quickly, and wider networks created, evident in activities like the webinar series run in-between the 2014 and this year’s (2015) awards: in this way they encourage people to work together to achieve both their individual and common goals.
Sharing best practice and learning by way of positive examples are forms of reflective learning, a practice as valuable and important as theoretical knowledge and first-hand experience. Doing so in the context of understanding care experiences is critical if we are to continue to keep the needs of those using and providing our services at the heart of the care received and all that we do.