Shared Learning: Diagnosing Needs, Prescribing Answers

Shared Learning: Diagnosing Needs, Prescribing Answers

When Saint Elizabeth Health Care began providing home health care 100 years ago, four nurses traveled by foot and streetcar to reach their patients. Today, nearly 4,000 employees provide care at 22 service delivery centers across Ontario. Saint Elizabeth’s also works with 450 health care providers in 200 First Nations (or “Native Canadian”) communities in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and approximately 350 providers in Trinidad and Tobago.

Saint Elizabeth’s began looking for ways to use learning technology in the late 1990s to help educate patients about their own care and quickly realized that technology-enhanced learning systems could be used for staff training as well.

“When we tested the approach, we found we had a great response from our health care professionals,” says Nancy Lefebre, Saint Elizabeth’s chief clinical executive and senior vice president of Knowledge and Practice. “We already had the content for the system, but needed a technology partner that could deliver the material in an interesting and engaging way to maximize the knowledge transfer.”

Although the organization began with another electronic learning system, it switched to the Blackboard system. According to Lefebre, “We needed a more robust and user-friendly platform, especially when it came to allowing subject matter experts to customize content.”


With Blackboard products, Saint Elizabeth’s was able to create @YourSide Colleague, a system that has improved the speed and accuracy of training as well as clinical decisions and diagnoses.

From any location with an Internet connection, staff has round-the-clock access to training and support. This includes discussion forums in which experts answer questions and give advice on specific case issues that can be viewed by the entire professional community. This is an important benefit for Saint Elizabeth’s staff and subscribing clients, who are spread out across nearly 1.3 million square miles.

Shared Learning“Being able to disseminate knowledge quickly and efficiently is a great benefit for us,” says Lefebre. Images can be uploaded to the system so that nurses in very remote locations can request “virtual” consultations. Linda Forster, Saint Elizabeth’s product manager, points out: “These consultations make a real difference in patient care since nurses can immediately apply the feedback they get. They don’t have to wait for ice to thaw or fog to lift so that a physician can fly to their location. Access to expert consultation literally brings care closer to home for patients.”


Shared learning has made great leaps in knowledge possible. In one such instance, a subject matter expert responded to a discussion group question by saying that the particular treatment technique that had been ordered for a patient was inappropriate and responsible for many complications, often requiring corrective surgery.

Lefebre recounts, “There was a collective ‘gasp’ on the line because many people were still using that treatment. The literature indicates that the sooner a client has access to someone with specialized knowledge, the better the outcome. With this kind of learning, we know better care is being delivered.”


Shared Learning Challenge & SolutionsSaint Elizabeth’s has taken advantage of the Blackboard system’s ability to track use and performance. By analyzing user metrics, decisions are made about what topics require additional training, modified instruction or more standardized information. For example, Lefebre says, “We can determine how much material to include in a module by seeing how long people are spending in a particular course. We also know that 80 percent of users are taking the practice quizzes, which shows that they are really trying to apply their knowledge.”

Other benefits have included:

>> improved confidence and performance of field staff;

>> improved retention of First Nations health care staff (since they no longer need to leave reservation facilities to travel to nearby colleges for instruction);

>> reduction in cost, travel and lost clinical time associated with training;

>> easy standardization of training materials throughout the organization; and

>> streamlined distribution and updating of HR/ administrative policies and procedures (which have also been added to the @YourSide Colleague platform).

—To learn more about Blackboard Professional Education Solutions, visit the Website or telephone (888) 719-6123.

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