HR in practice: Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust gets staff plugged into MP3 players for training

How do you ensure busy hospital workers meet their legal training requirements without disrupting medical care? One NHS trust introduced MP3 players so staff could access courses any time, anywhere. Lucy Freeman reports.

The business

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust serves Wakefield District and North Kirklees, a combined population of around 500,000. It also serves patients from South Leeds, North Yorkshire, Barnsley and Doncaster, and has an annual budget of £295m.

Its organisational development department oversees the provision of mandatory training, NVQs, Performance and Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) development review (appraisal), core development and senior manager development.

The challenge

To fulfil its legal requirements, the trust must organise mandatory training for 6,500 staff in three hospitals. This equates to about 30,000 training sessions each year. Add in varied shift patterns, and the trust faces a huge logistical problem to ensure that staff receive training material, attend sessions and that training targets are achieved.

The trust invited tenders for a solution that would enable it to meet its training responsibilities and, as a result, appointed multimedia production company MezzoFilms.

The solution

After five months of research, Mezzo introduced specially designed personal media players. The players look like iPod Nanos and staff can hook them up to their laptop or a hospital computer through a USB cable. The computers, in turn, link to the organisational development department of the trust.

Staff can then listen through headphones to the training materials and use the navigation on the device to move on to the next section, or can watch mini-documentaries on the computer that back up the listening material – for example, a fire safety documentary shows actual fire marshals from the hospital demonstrating how to use the different extinguishers.

“The marketing that we gave to the device helped with its success,” explains James Foster, Mezzo’s marketing and development director. “Lots of initiatives are launched in hospitals, but it is the way they are communicated to staff that makes them successful.”

The trust bought 300 devices for less than £2 each, and allocated the rest of its £50,000 budget to filming its own training materials.

Each staff member who takes a player is given a password and user name, and when the user logs on, the administration staff can monitor what stage of training the employee has reached and how much time they spend on it. The user completes a multiple-choice questionnaire at the end of the unit to prove they have absorbed the course’s content.

The outcome

The feedback from staff has been excellent and the number of staff completing training has soared.

“You cannot cheat on it, you cannot skip through it. It’s something you have to spend the time on,” says Foster.

In the first three months of using the players, staff completed 1,700 sets of training, and the trust has exceeded its compliance targets.

That said, implementing the multimedia training was not without its challenges.

Once the product had been developed, the trust had to make minor tweaks to make it perfect. Filming in situ using existing staff, although valuable in engaging employee interest, required a lot of time and organisation, for example. And Karen Vella, head of organisational development at the trust, admits that she grossly underestimated the complexity of the filming.

The trust will take back the players in May this year to update existing modules and add new ones, and will review the content on an annual basis.

If I could do it again…

Karen Vella, head of organisational development at Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, says that if she was to implement the project again from the beginning she would be better prepared for the intricacies of filming in the hospital.

“Some of the footage was library stuff, but the mini-documentaries were filmed on-site and the filming was a much bigger undertaking than I thought. We had to ensure all the film footage adhered to governance issues – that everyone featured was wearing the correct uniform, that all the infection control procedures were in place – and we were filming in public areas so we had to liaise with people working in clinical areas. Also, obviously, respecting the privacy and dignity of patients was a huge issue. We grossly under-estimated the time we needed to organise that.”

Employee perspective

Helen Green is hospital matron at Pinderfields Hospital, part of the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust. “I am actually in one of the mini-documentaries we made,” she says. “The documentaries in particular worked well as they made people want to log on to the PCs to see familiar staff.

“When the players were distributed they caused quite a stir around the hospital. I am not very good with technical things, but I figured it out within minutes. So many more people are logging on than used to be able to attend training days.

“Obviously, no-one cancels a day’s training any more, which is what used happen frequently if someone on the ward was off sick and the attendee had to cover.

“I listen to the recording when I am walking between the three trust sites. The nice bit about classroom training is meeting other people, but we just have to think about the time aspect.”

Guide to training via MP3 player: the benefits

  1. Staff learn at times that are convenient to them and their employer
  2. The organisation saves thousands of hours, as staff do not need to take time out to train other staff
  3. The staff are compliant with training standards and schedules
  4. The organisation saves money by ensuring working hours are optimised
  5. 100% accountability – a complete audit trail is provided
  6. Easy to use, fun and engaging
  7. Potential to be portable
  8. Improves staff morale by reducing stress over training
  9. Staff learn at their own pace
  10. Modules can be remotely updated

Source: MezzoFilms

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