Your hospital has just hired a new technician. Everyone is thrilled to welcome them to the team. During the interview, they mentioned a desire to gain experience and confidence with small ruminants (something your clinic sees a lot of!). You smile and assure them that there will be ample training to ensure they are comfortable with these patients.
Fast forward 6 months.
Things have been rolling along as usual for your hospital. The days are busy, case load is high and team numbers low. As a manager, you are continuously pulled in six different directions and expected to extinguish multiple fires on the daily.
You somehow manage to scrape together 30 minutes to sit down with your newest technician. They are disappointed. In fact, you both are. You both expected to see growth in small ruminant care but it just hasn’t unfolded that way. While your hospital has a basic training program, there just wasn’t enough time to focus on it. The tech is frustrated and questions training priorities at the hospital.
You sigh; this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this concern. I am guessing many of you can relate. At least on some level, right?
OF COURSE we want to nurture growth within our team. Development, direction, and learning is at the core of every veterinary professional. While we would love to set aside time for specific training programs, there often aren't enough hours in the workday. Given that common obstacle, what can we do to promote a culture of learning at work?
Great news! A lot can be done to effectively develop a learning culture. This article reminds us that we don’t always need to rely on our hospitals' formal learning programs, but rather focus on our communication and connection skills to create this culture. Truth is the foundation on which to build a culture of learning is made up of a solid layer of psychological safety.
What is psychological safety?
It is defined as “a belief that it is OK to take interpersonal risks, speak up, and admit mistakes without fear of negative consequences”. In other words, it is made up of two equally important components:
Recognition of voice. Showing others that their input matters…actually matters! Encouraging and valuing their voice will energize your hospital's culture.
2. Encourage Learning. Fostering an environment that encourages people to try new things and celebrates the effort (regardless of the outcome) matters too! People who know they can stumble while learning, speak up when help is needed and earn support and encouragement are far more open to learning and development.
To build a psychologically safe culture of learning, science suggests we keep the following things in mind:
Acknowledge mistakes and offer support
Avoid the “blame game”
Celebrate small wins
So, even if you aren’t always able to set aside time to implement official training programs with your technicians, you can still promote learning and fuel education by establishing a culture built on psychological safety.
Moving forward, be on the lookout for small ruminant appointments. Keep your tech in the loop when the next goat is being admitted and encourage them to step in as the treating technician. Lead by example and show them that curiosity is celebrated. Ask the clinician about the diagnosis and how the requested treatment will help. Cheer and support the tech as they place the IVC. Sure, they may not hit that rolly goat vein on the first try. That’s OK! Prove to them they won’t be chastised when they blow the vein and end up placing it in the opposite jugular. Talk through their misstep, paying close attention to avoid blaming the assistant that is restraining. High-five their effort and guide them towards success.
By making a conscious effort to promote psychological safety you will create a positive learning experience for the tech AND set the stage for more in the future. They will know that their input is valued, their efforts celebrated, and requests for help effectively honored. It is within this type of environment that a true culture of learning can be nurtured. Your team will be empowered to grow and soon your routine check-ins will be filled with purposeful, motivated technicians that can’t wait to tell you all about the new thing they learned today!