Learning & DevelopmentHospital

Building a hospital's learning culture

The crisis as a catalyst?

Creating a learning culture had been in the focus of a hospital's Academy for some time. Healthcare is a rapidly evolving field and learning is crucial to keep up with the latest developments in the profession and to stand out as an organisation. In order to gather new ideas for strengthening the learning culture, we conducted research on how learning in the organisation takes place. What works well? How can it be made even better?


When the project was almost finished, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and the study came to a standstill. After the first intense crisis months, the organisation felt a need to give that period, and everything that had been learned and experienced in it, a place. This gave rise to an idea: wouldn't it be possible to use the research project precisely for this purpose?



So we went in search of additional powerful examples: where had teams and individuals succeeded in continuing to provide good care in those times of crisis? Where had colleagues found ways to work together, sharing - even across departmental boundaries - knowledge and experience and making quick decisions? In short: where did they succeed in combining learning and working successfully in this time of crisis?

We opted for group interviews, because after these intense months there was a great need for connectedness. The head of the Academy organised several interviews where people could share their experiences and reflect with each other on what worked powerfully. In addition, we phoned a number of staff members, ranging from doctors to nurses to a researcher, and interviewed them briefly. 


Beautiful and moving stories came up as a result. A lung nurse who had just walked across the corridor for fifteen minutes to give her colleagues at the Covid-ward a crash course about her field. A psychiatrist who discovered how her expertise in the treatment team proved invaluable. Or an A&E physician who had become passionate about multi-skilling the nurses in the future so that they can be widely-deployed in crises like this.


We compiled the input from these conversations in a magazine, together with the original research results. In doing so, we took great care to ensure that it didn't become a 'report', but that all the stories had a face to them and stayed 'alive'.



The research made the rather abstract theme of 'learning culture' tangible. The concrete examples and stories revealed the strength of the learning culture in the hospital, and where there was still room for improvement.


The reflective group conversations were important because people could really share their experiences from working in the Covid-19 crisis - often for the first time. They felt heard and seen. Sharing the stories on learning and innovation by means of the magazine turned out to be meaningful and effective, as it gave them a broader stage.


The aim of the magazine is to invite colleagues to enter into an organisation-wide discussion about the learning culture in the hospital. What did they experience in this regard? What worked powerfully in their own practice? What do they want to see more of in the coming period? The movement towards an excellent learning culture that the hospital is building has been accelerated by Covid-19, and by reflecting collectively on it.