Skills are the new CEU’s; why impact-driven learning is critical

Posted by Andrew Malley on 4.5.2021

Imagine a nurse working in an urgent care facility in rural North Dakota. Now imagine a different nurse working in a 100-bed hospital in downtown Atlanta. The notion that these two healthcare professionals will have the same workday is unlikely, to say the least. Yet, on paper, they might look similar, with credentials such as ‘RN’, ‘BSN’, or ‘MSN’ after their names. Traditional credentialing falls short in providing a nuanced snapshot of professionals’ skills as well as the diverse needs of healthcare. This leads to employees not being hired for the right jobs because employers don’t have enough insight into their skill sets, and employees not being given the right training they need in order to succeed in their current positions. 

Additionally, traditional healthcare education often doesn’t impart knowledge that is not clinical in nature, but that is equally important for clinicians to succeed, such as a basic understanding of the business of healthcare, financial management, or compliance and legal issues. 

This shortcoming is detrimental for all parties involved, resulting in secondary costs. A Medical Malpractice Payout Report indicates that in 2018, there was a total of 11,584 malpractice payments in the U.S. and the average malpractice payment was $348,065. Considering that compliance issues are only a small part of the puzzle — others include longer training times, worker compensation cases, high turnover, costly mistakes, not accomplishing financial goals, and poor patient satisfaction — the costs can add up quickly. In the most dramatic cases, the cost of a healthcare professional not having the right skills at the right time may even be a patient’s life. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated this fact.

Even where continuing education is not a state requirement, most health systems are aware that continuing education is not just an asset, but a requirement for a flourishing workforce and improved patient outcomes. Estimates state that $100 billion are spent worldwide annually on the education of healthcare professionals. 

Unfortunately, not all of these education options are created equal. In-person programs have high costs and lack flexibility, and many online programs are largely passive, have low industry input, and little academic collaboration. The low quality of these programs is reflected in learner satisfaction: Massive open online courses see completion rates in the single digits, and likewise, completion rates of for-profit institutions often lie below 40% and go as low as 7.6%. COVID-19 has further lowered the bar by forcing all institutions of higher education to move online quickly without the time and resources to develop robust platforms. Building a best-in-class online experience is challenging at the best of times, more so when budgets have been slashed.

So what is the magic ingredient that can solve the problem of continuing education in healthcare? While the solution is complex, it boils down to one thing above all: impact. 

Impact-driven learning is industry-informed. It identifies shortages and addresses them in order to make a difference not only in the lives of the learners but also in their community. It’s delivered in an engaging format that is easy to navigate and flexible enough that learners can access it when they need it. It can come in the form of stackable badges or micro-credentials, certificate programs, or degrees. 

While impact-driven learning sounds easy in principle, the wide array of low-quality options in the space prove that it’s considerably difficult to make it come to life. We as educators need to be willing to listen. We need to think creatively. As an example, we can do this by accepting that a degree might not be the best option for each student and repackaging information into shorter certificate programs or even smaller knowledge units like micro-credentialing. We need to disconnect ourselves from the idea that our programs are successful because we got a certain number of seats filled. In order to work towards a real return of investment on education, we always need to return to the same question: Will the learning content I’m putting out into the world truly help healthcare professionals make a positive impact?

Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) has developed a unique approach to ensure that the answer to this important question is a resounding ‘yes’: At the intersection of three distinct segments of the education sector — EdTech, Corporate Training, and OPM — DHGE offers online programs that foster authentic leadership, data-driven decision-making, and intrapreneurial innovation. Developed with CEOs and CNOs, DHGE programs combine industry expertise and top-tier academic knowledge from industry leaders like Duke CE, Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. Traditional quizzes have been replaced with reflective, work-based exercises that allow for a strong focus on applicability from the moment of learning. The effort we invest in high quality is reflected by our outstanding completion rates (92% on average for certificate programs), positive learner feedback, and our own assessments of ROI. And while our programs do carry continuing education credits, we really do put skills, usefulness, and impact first — because impact-driven learning is now more important than ever.

About Andrew Malley

Andrew is an experienced higher education leader with over 18 years of experience in education globally, in both the public and private sector. He is a graduate of the University of Liverpool in the UK and a qualified teacher in languages. He has worked, lived, and led projects in South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the UK, India, the U.S. and across Africa, as a teacher, manager, and director. Having taught and led in education around the world, he has firsthand knowledge of the positive change and empowerment that education can provide to individuals and communities. As a leader in the establishment of DHGE, Andrew firmly believes in providing high-quality and work-based learning to the healthcare workforce. He understands the great impact industry and higher education can have when they work together in an effective, cohesive, and innovative way.

About DHGE

Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) is the leading healthcare workforce development company. Dedicated to providing customized educational opportunities and a student-centric experience, DHGE develops online programs and workforce development solutions with industry, for industry. They achieve this goal by partnering with top-ranked academic institutions and thought-leading professionals. Learn more at