My first job was working as a respiratory therapist, someone who provides therapy for the respiratory system. Regardless of whether you were a premature infant with immature lungs, an adult that had just survived a major car crash or a lung cancer patient, if your lungs needed some type of mechanical or pharmaceutical assistance, I was one person you definitely needed.
The other part of my job was to educate patients on things like the hazards of smoking, triggers for asthma and even how to manage a ventilator (breathing machine) at home on your child. Over the years, my love for education grew and I found myself teaching and training more and more.
One day, I was working with a physician that was just out of medical school and we found ourselves in an emergency. There was an unresponsive child that had been brought into the ER and a breathing tube needed to be inserted.
It is important to note that after being involved in countless emergencies throughout my medical career, the best advice that I took away with me was that no matter how dire the situation, panic and rushing only caused more mistakes. The physician’s upper level proceeded to instruct him on how to insert the tube. I had never seen such a horrid display of instruction, patience and procedure.
Yelling, slapping someone’s hand and embarrassing them were never things I was aware of that were supposed to be part of teaching and training.
The upper level then yanked the tools out of the physician’s hands and took over the procedure. The physician, sweating and shaking, quietly walked out of the room with his head down.
I finished assisting his upper level and ran around the ER looking for him. After finding him, I told him not to worry, that he did the best he could and he would get another chance. “When that chance comes, I will help you,” I said. A couple of days later, that chance arrived and we found ourselves in a very similar situation. I can still see the physician starting to sweat profusely and his hands beginning to shake.
I reassured him, but he shook his head and began to walk out of the room. I gently grabbed his arm, looked at him in the eye and said, “No, you can do this.” We diligently worked together to get the task done, using patience, calm instruction and encouragement and he completed he procedure.
This is where my love and desire to help educate, train and teach comes from.
While I was perfectly aware that this physician’s upper level was extremely knowledgeable and experienced, he was not exactly the right person to instruct this type of individual. Over the next few years following this incident, I decided to move from a practitioner role to that of a trainer/educator. I realized that although it had been patients that I was taught to care for, there were practitioners that needed my help even more. I helped to develop education, training and mentoring programs for various medical procedures and processes for physicians, nurses and other respiratory therapists.
Today, the practitioners have changed a bit, exchanging stethoscopes and pen lights for computers and code.
The scene is definitely different, but the goals are still the same: make onboarding and training as straightforward as possible, while also efficient and effective. I have done many different kinds of projects and they are always challenging. The challenge, of course, is learning subject matter (something that instructional designers are used to), but identifying the exact need of each department and their employees is the real need.
After all, not everyone learns the same. We all have different needs and abilities as learners. Some of us need more attention or reinforcement while others need space and time. So while my audience has somewhat changed, the objective remains the same. I started out caring for people’s knowledgebase and I still am.