How Partners Healthcare Provides Educational Access and Equity to Employees Through Online Programs
In the fast-paced and busy world of healthcare, it can be hard for those working in that field to find time to also pursue higher education. But with advancements in education technology and online education programs, healthcare providers are putting forward ways to provide their employees opportunities that don’t necessarily require classroom time.
In this interview from the 2018 LearnLaunch conference, we speak to M.J. Ryan, Workforce Development Director for Partner’s Healthcare System, about how healthcare employees are finding success through convenient and helpful online education programs that work around their busy schedules.
Hannah Nyren: Welcome to the EdTech Times podcast.
Hannah Nyren: Hi. This is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times, and today I am speaking with…
M.J. Ryan: M.J. Ryan. I’m the Workforce Development Director for Partner’s Healthcare System.
Hannah Nyren: So tell me about what you’re doing here at the LearnLaunch conference today.
M.J. Ryan: I was invited to present on a panel that would talk about edtech in the enterprise, and we’ve been working with technology as an enabler for career advancement and academic advancement for employees across our healthcare system since probably 2007, 2008.
Hannah Nyren: What conversations were had during this panel? What were the main points discussed?
M.J. Ryan: I think the main points, from our perspective, [were] the increasing access to education, to higher education, and to opportunity for all. And in that light, we were able to hear from one of my colleagues, that was on the panel who was with Penn Foster, and how they’ve engaged with employees and employers and how they’ve worked to create programs that align with the needs of the employer. And he’s done a lot of really good work in that space. As well as investors who understand the importance of this work and invest in this kind of education.
Hannah Nyren: So I think a lot of people might see Partners HealthCare and edtech as two very separate things. So what is the connection between Partners HealthCare and edtech?
M.J. Ryan: So Partners Healthcare is dedicated to teaching and exploring new things and innovating. So it actually all comes together very, very well in the space that I work in, workforce development. We want to ensure that all of our employees have access to the opportunities forward with higher education as do our higher level physicians and researchers.
M.J. Ryan: So we want to make sure that we have equity in education and the only way to provide that access, we’re finding, is through technology. We work three shifts, 24/7, and the way to work with employees that don’t have the luxury of leaving work and sitting in a classroom, we find that technology helps us to bridge that gap for them and give everyone equal access.
Hannah Nyren: And so what is your role in working with these technologies?
M.J. Ryan: So my role is to work with anyone who I think can help us. We have worked with several tech firms, we work with OHO Interactive out of Cambridge, who have helped us create a program called the Online College Prep Program. And we first worked on a basic platform for free with another online learning expert, Ryan Busch. So we look to find any way we can help bring access to our employees. We’ve worked with College for America. So I guess our connection is: anything they can do for us to help us better serve our employees and those that we want to help advance, works.
Hannah Nyren: That’s great. And how long have you been using technology to help train your employees?
M.J. Ryan: So going way back, we’ve done some mandatory in-service training on programs like health stream and other kind of store-bought programs that we could enhance and that’s just general training. But as far as creating access to education, we start with a grant from the Boston Foundation back in 2007, called the Allied Health Initiative and our goal was to test technology as an enabler. We tried and failed for about three years straight. We tried various off the shelf software programs that just didn’t work for many of our employees. And we had a hard time even with very intensive coaching on our part.
M.J. Ryan: We worked with Bunker Hill Community College to create some online higher level advanced modality imaging programs with them, and even those individuals who had a lot of access to computers every day and worked with them every day had trouble learning online. So we went down that path of the online learning preparation and we have a program now called the Online College Prep Program which has been enhanced over the years, which was most recently by Rutgers University, so that has been our general foray and since about 2007. But I’d say successfully since about 2010 and most, most recent success with College of America Southern New Hampshire University which is online, competency-based education. We started that in 2014.
Hannah Nyren: Oh that’s great. What improvements do you think could be made and the technology you’re using? What would you like to see in this enterprise technology?
M.J. Ryan: I think maybe to continue to increase its flexibility, its mobility. Many of our programs can be used mobiley, but not as easily. So I think more access to our employees who are continuously on the move. And as many of our presenters talked about, this week, making things small digestible chunks and modulate, modularizing them, contextualizing them to the work that people are doing every day is very important. I have a mentor who is our academic adviser, Dr. Harriet Tolpin, who has a lot of experience in academia and her venture has been calling for many many years to contextualize and modularize, make things bite-sizable pieces and then people can embed them, so I think more flexibility.
M.J. Ryan: I think when we work with our platform and our Online College Prep Program there’s a lot of things that we’d love to do that we cannot do. We’re working on platforms that just seem a little stiffer than than than we need them to be. So I think that ability to more simply interact with them as a non-native tech person in that my team can work more carefully with rather than having right now when we make any significant changes we have to work with a tech expert, we have to bring in a company, it’s very expensive. So for us to be able to more easily interact, not being technical experts, would be great.
Hannah Nyren: That’s a common need, it’s the integration of technology that can slow things down and you want to adapt new things but you don’t necessarily have the resources to make it happen.It’s the integration of technology that can slow things down and you want to adapt new things but you don’t necessarily have the resources to make it happen.
M.J. Ryan: Right, and the scales and of course we always have to be aware of security whenever our employees are involved in anything web based. But I just think honestly just the ability to more readily interact with the technology as an, as a ,you know, common person not a tech genius.
Hannah Nyren: What about like virtual reality training or something, would you ever consider that?
M.J. Ryan: That would be so cool. Because we have, so as you know, in healthcare many of the professions require internships and hands-on training and we have shortages in many many areas including a simple area like certified nursing assistant. If people could do their internships virtually, that would expand the market and the ability to get people trained more quickly. It would really break down a large barrier in our pipeline.
Hannah Nyren: It would lower the risk factor perhaps.
M.J. Ryan: Exactly and lower the risk factor and, you know, certainly you always have to touch that human being, you’re going to have to work with them. But if you could reduce the time that you need, we could increase our ability to train more people.
Hannah Nyren: That’s great. Well thank you so much for speaking with me today M.J.. I hope you’re able to enjoy the rest of the conference.
M.J. Ryan: Thank you. I plan to. Take care.
Watch the full interview:
Jonah is a sophomore at Emerson College studying Writing, Literature, & Publishing as well as Political Communication. On campus, he is a publication editor, radio host, and on-air news talent. When he isn’t doing media-based activities, he enjoys reading a good book and having a warm cup of coffee.