Any group of professionals that relies on in-person interaction for success knows the challenges that the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought. The training team at Vyaire Medical is no exception, but they have overcome every obstacle with a can-do spirit and a dedication to patient care.
Last year the COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of all application, technical and biomedical classroom training sessions at Vyaire’s training center in Mettawa, Ill., to protect the safety and wellness of employees and customers. The company has recently resumed in-person respiratory diagnostics and ventilation classes at the training center with capacity limits and COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
For Vyaire Medical's in-field trainers in the US, however, there was no cessation of activity. Working under heavy restrictions, the team of eight training professionals continued with on-site training sessions to support frontline workers, while also working together to create online content to supplement their efforts.
"Many of (our trainers) have spent very little time at home since February 2020," said Terry Blansfield, director of clinical services and ventilation education at Vyaire Medical. "Members of the team have continued — even before vaccines were available — to be in the hospitals providing the needed training."
Although many hospitals were not allowing vendor visits, the relentless spread of the pandemic meant they still needed ventilator training. "For me, it was only about six weeks that I wasn't out in the field," said Janice Hamons, clinical specialist, ventilation. "We were out there as much as we could be following all hospital protocols and with extensive precautions in place."
Of course, those trainings weren't happening in the usual way. Trainers had to wear N95 masks at all times, and often were required to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gowns, masks and face shields.
Scheduling trainings proved to a bit of a challenge, too. Normally training sessions would last about an hour and would occur as often as needed to cover all shifts. But because the hospital staffs were so overwhelmed, scheduling specific times for training was impossible. "There were always emergencies pulling people away."
As a result, Hamons and the other trainers would do multiple training sessions over the course of a 10- or 12-hour day.
In addition, trainers often found themselves traveling outside their normal regions to provide training where it was needed. "The thing about the whole pandemic and going from the status quo to where we are now is it required incredible flexibility from our entire team," Hamons said. "We hope our customers felt that we were all coming together to do everything possible for them and their patients."
To address these challenges, Vyaire expanded the online training it had been providing for years. These efforts included virtual live sessions, on-demand sessions and videos — all in multiple languages.
"We were in full production throughout the pandemic," Blansfield said. "We got very flexible in how we delivered education."
"That online learning ability was key," Hamons added. She said while she might be able to do one to two in-person trainings per week, the digital content allowed her to help many more hospitals in that timeframe.
Blansfield said Vyaire plans to take the lessons it's learned during the pandemic and apply them to future training content. For example, while the company will continue to offer online training, it also plans to make the sessions even more interactive and immersive. He said, for example, a trainee will have to interact with his or her screen in the right way before they can move on to the next segment of the training.
In addition, Vyaire is planning to do more re-education sessions to address questions that may have come up since the original training. "These are complex pieces of equipment. It's very difficult to teach people everything they need to know in an hour," Hamons said. "Re-education is a great application for the virtual training that we do."
And that may be one of the silver linings coming from the pandemic — lessons learned in the field will enable Vyaire to offer more robust, more efficient, more meaningful and more convenient training to healthcare professionals.
"There's always an opportunity to learn," Blansfield said. "It's only a mistake if you don't learn from it."
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