Improving the integration of students into the laboratory environment by intervening in orientation: A case of sensemaking

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  • Medical laboratory technologists (MLTs), the third largest group of health care professionals, perform tests on body fluids and tissues in order to assist physicians in the diagnosis and prognosis of disease. In Alberta the minimum educational requirement to practice as an MLT is one year of didactic training followed by one year of clinical internship. An environmental scan showed that despite the students exhibiting adequate technical abilities they were somewhat lacking in the realm of soft skills. Upon reviewing the applicable literature this was thought to be caused by a discord in communication specifically created by the knowledge gap between the student generations consisting of Generation X and Y and the staff generations composed of Baby Boomers and Veterans. In an attempt to focus on improving student integration into the clinical year the focus of the mandatory clinical training orientation was changed from hard skill to soft skill with the spotlight being on laboratory cultural. Hudson, Kadan, Lavin & Vasquez, (2010) successfully performed a similar (technology mediated) intervention for hard (math) skills and found that “introducing old topics in new and exciting ways hooks students’ interest and allows them to see things in a new light” (Hudson, Kadan, Lavin & Vasquez, 2010). Further to this, Rowold (2008) found that “non-technical training has an effect on soft skills” and that “interventions should be included into future theoretical models of training effectiveness” (Rowold, 2008). Thus, an intervention targeting the soft skill development of the students was performed and delivered and supported using electronic means in hopes that it would yield more successful student integration. Quantitative and qualitative results showed that the intervention did not succeed as intended. Quantitatively, 60% of the access was generated by students with the remaining 40% from the class administrator. The 40% administration access included any maintenance required after the students were given access, but excludes the build time prior to student access. The 60% includes the time the students were given to access the orientation modules during their orientations sessions, which would account for 35/105 or 33% of the user sessions generated by the students. This means that 67% of the student user sessions were generated by the students independently. Qualitatively, students were asked a series of questions regarding the effect the orientation had on their subsequent integration into the laboratory setting as well as questions about the technology used (eClass). There were three main themes that emerged from their feedback: there is redundancy in the iteration of the concepts of professionalism; electronic access, particularly in the context of eClass, was not effective; a paper manual should be provided. Instructional staff members are asked to provide regular feedback regarding student progress. This is performed during monthly staff meetings and on an ongoing basis when issues arise. Furthermore, clinical site staff are asked to provide ongoing feedback regarding student progress. The main theme that emerged from the staff responses is that the students seem ostensibly unaware of general policies regarding clinical training expectations, predominantly in the realm of professionalism. Examples include persistent tardiness and absenteeism, and failure to perform clerical checks (patient identity checks) – one student was even required to withdraw from his/her respective program due to continuous failure of to perform this critical step. This case study critiques this intervention from a sensemaking perspective. Retrospective examination of the case found that sensemaking is only accomplished through context developed through practice. Furthermore, aside from learning about and applying demographic studies into my work practice, examination of this case was fruitful as many lessons were gleaned including the value added from utilizing simulation as a means of fine-tuning soft skills, creating and systemically utilizing a measurable device for tracking soft skills and ensuring the appropriateness of the media choice, not just from the demographic perspective but from an integration perspective (how the media choice will be integrated into the students life). Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly I learned to adjust my expectations in relation to how well students should integrate and how well I should expect subsequent interventions to work, and that the intervention would have perhaps been more successful had the focus been applied to the organization as well as the students. References: Hudson, S., Kadan, S., Lavin, K. & Vasquez, T. (2010). Improving basic math skills using technology. Retrieved from Online Submission. (ED512698). Rowold, J. (2008). Multiple effects of human resource development interventions. Journal of European Industrial Training, 32(1), 32-44.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International