Learning in the time of Covid-19

By Dale Schierbeck, Vice President, Learning & Development, CHA Learning
“It was a lone voice in the middle of the ocean, but it was heard at great depth and great distance.”
—Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera,

As I reflect on the many themes and words of Gabriel García Márquez in his novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, these words, in particular, resonate with me and give me hope.

Yes, we are living in a time with little precedence. And, yes, many of us feel we are at sea.

Already, everything in our daily lives has changed and for the past few weeks now, almost every day has brought more change. Most businesses gradually – and then almost all at once – closed their doors to the public. Other businesses, like our own, have suddenly had to embrace working remotely. Children have been sent home and playgrounds taped off. Social gatherings have become virtual. Every step outside our front doors needs to be evaluated in the context of whether it’s “essential” or can be done at a “physical distance.”

For all but our centenarians, we are all in a generational moment. And in this moment, many of us are at once feeling isolated, alone, and afraid – yet, at the same time, forging strong connections through resonant social networks and communities. I believe that we will emerge a different nation, a different global community, one which I hope is stronger and wiser as a result of what we learn and share through these networks.

At the heart of this future re-emergence will be our capacity, today, to protect our community and its health and to learn from this experience. That HealthCareCAN has a mandate that uniquely positions us to both advocate for the needs of our healthcare organizations and their professionals on the front lines, and to provide critical learning opportunities throughout and thereafter.

The way we do our business has certainly changed in recent days, but what we do and why we do it has not. The guiding mission for CHA Learning is to empower health professionals with the knowledge, skills and relationships to lead health system improvement. It’s a passionate mission each member of my team holds in their hearts and because of that, it has us striving for new ways to help and serve our community.

It’s for this reason that last week, we at HealthCareCAN and CHA Learning rapidly transitioned our staff “home” to keep them safe. Then we set up a virtual operation centre to continue to support our nearly 1000 active students who are at various stages of their courses. It’s why our team members, each compassionate, giving and empathetic to their core, are so eager to work with faculty and students and our systems to support them all.

Some of our learners are finding this an opportune time to focus on their course work – and some need to slow, pause, or extend their studies because their attention is necessarily at home and/or ensuring people-centred care. Many others continue to reach out and register because the demand for the incredibly pertinent and yet safe, distance education that CHA Learning uniquely offers has never been more relevant in today’s “physically distant” world. We understand, because unlike most “learning providers,” we are an organization by health, for health, one which is connected to our students, their stories, our member organizations and their needs.

We understand because we are listening to our own community across Canada and the continuum of care. For example, we have hundreds of students working in long-term care facilities providing leadership, care, and food services in a rapidly changing landscape. Staff in some of these residences are facing infection prevention and control measures they have only previously seen in hospitals.

Throughout the health system, staff are changing roles and doing things they were never trained or hired to do. Administrators, leaders, and coworkers alike are struggling to provide safe services as other coworkers are being removed from their care teams as they themselves get sick or require isolation. I’m sure for many, it is overwhelming and feels like fighting one fire while new fires are being started and fire fighters are being sent home. All the while, the mental strain on all – staff, patients, residents, and their family members – is acute. We know this is just as hard for those at home, in isolation, hearing from their coworkers and knowing they’re needed at the frontline. Every day, we’re hearing dozens of stories like these from our community.

As a part of our commitment to our mission, last week we took our own unprecedented step to open two courses: Engage to Influence Change and Time Management for free to our health community. While this may seem a small gesture, for a small charitable organization like us, facing our own financial uncertainty in these difficult times, this is an example of us leading, learning, and improving healthcare together.

This is our commitment to continuing to engage you all, to encourage you to continue learning with us during this difficult time, and our own ongoing commitment to learning from you.

None of us can do this alone. None of us has all the answers. No one has a monopoly on solutions.

We know this is CHA Learning’s opportunity to fulfill our charitable purpose, to give back to our community, to provide timely and relevant knowledge and skills in times of challenge.

We will, as I say,  forge strong connectionsthrough resonant social networks and communities with strong voices. We will be one of those strong voices “in the middle of the ocean, [that is] heard at great depth and great distance.”

We will continue to work with you and for you all. We will learn from you and we will keep searching for ways to better serve you now and into our shared new future. And I commit that we will keep communicating with you throughout all of this.

In everything you do, please stay safe and healthy.

Dale Schierbeck
VP, Learning & Development