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Tuesday August 17, 2021  |  Kenyatta Owens, Director of MEDHOST Education Services

Tackling the Training and Education Challenges in Rural Healthcare

Tackling Training Education Challenges Rural Healthcare EHR

Rural communities are chronically short of physicians, nurses, specialists, and other healthcare workers.

The loss of even a single employee can have a far-reaching impact. In addition to the low number of physicians who practice in rural areas, higher than average turnover rates often further reduce the available workforce. These challenges and others demand speedy and practical training of rural hospital staff to maintain adequate staffing.

One training area often overlooked concerns education over the proper usage of a hospital’s healthcare IT (HIT) solutions. Because every IT tool used in your hospital directly or indirectly affects care delivery, patient experiences, and productivity, the probability of periodic staff shortages in the rural healthcare landscape requires extra diligence to ensure adequate performance from the entire team.

Inadequate HIT Education Hurts Your Workforce

HIT education not only improves performance but also increases job satisfaction. A reduction in frustration and increased job satisfaction can build a more loyal and capable workforce.

However, many rural hospitals are resource-strapped and must choose between investing in solutions that meet their immediate needs or those that may take time to realize fully. Educating new and current staff on their HIT systems is both a short-term investment in performance and a  long-term investment in people.

Inefficient EHR Usage

The absence of defined or updated EHR training programs during and after implementing healthcare IT solutions can have long-term impacts. Literature indicates that EHR adoption and satisfaction have links to improved patient care and financial and operational outcomes. Conversely, a lack in EHR adoption due to inadequate knowledge can result in drops in care quality and stressed-out employees.

In all settings, EHR training is something clinicians both want and need. However, according to survey data taken from clinical EHR users, 43% of clinician users rated their initial EHR training as “less than adequate,” while 94.6% of respondents thought there are opportunities to improve their EHR knowledge.

EHR Burnout and Turnover

Inadequate training on an EHR can lead to poor HIT utilization. Poor utilization can lead to employee stress. Preventable work stressors can easily be attributed to higher turnover. Vacancies due to turnover can trigger a domino effect of financial strain on operations, quality of patient care, training costs, and staff workload.

For example, the cost of replacing a single nurse is estimated to be between $37k - $58k. Replacement costs may include recruitment funds, additional wages for staff coverage, and onboarding expenses for the new nurse.

According to an SHRM report, the average cost per hire across organizations and industries is estimated at $4,125 per new employee. While the cost to replace a healthcare worker may be lower than the average in rural healthcare communities, in an industry where turnover averages 15%, clinician burnout is high, and health emergencies arise unexpectedly, those dollars can add up quickly. As a result, rural community providers must seek creative solutions and better understand the impact of well-trained staff when curbing expenses.

How EHR Training Supports Your Workforce

Training programs are necessary to maintain optimal utilization of HIT solutions like an EHR, which plays a significant role in supporting a positive physician and patient experience. An established training program is not a panacea for rural healthcare workforce and care delivery issues, but at the very least can:

  • Help lower the cost of turnover
  • Streamline the on-boarding process
  • Positively impact staff retention on an already financially burdened facility
  • Improve staff confidence due to effective EHR use that trickles down to the care of patients

When evaluating any HIT solution, especially those concerning your EHR, rural hospitals should look for training programs that offer educational options that are repeatable and scalable. Your hospital can streamline on-boarding new staff and promote continuing education opportunities by offering a range of self-paced learning modes. In addition, a core of highly knowledgeable employees will work to prevent knowledge gaps in the event of turnover.

At MEDHOST, we have developed a cost-effective, structured, and immersive eLearning solution that acknowledges the many competing responsibilities of a rural healthcare worker. The design of MEDHOST Learning Essentials ensures a strong foundation of end-user knowledge that helps empower users to apply that knowledge in a real-world setting quickly.

By helping reframe the importance of adequate training and its effect on quality care and clinician experience, our rural hospital partners can effectively resolve staff frustrations and improve confidence. A confident workforce boosts retention. With improved retention, you can help ensure your community hospitals offer high-quality care when the patient needs it.

To learn more about how MEDHOST Learning Essentials can help strengthen your rural workforce, reach out to us at or call 1.800.383.6278.

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