Minister for Health and Children Mr Micheál Martin TD´s Speech at the launch of the Office for Health Management´s eLearning Programmes

I am very pleased to have been invited by the Office for Health Management to launch its eLearning Programmes for non-financial managers and nurse managers.

The Office for Health Management was established in 1997 following the publication of the Management Development Strategy for the health and personal social services. Its remit is to implement the recommendations of that strategy, particularly those that relate to management development. The role of the Office is primarily a facilitative one; it does this by working with employers as well as directly with their staff. The Office provides management development programmes and initiatives and works to share an up to date knowledge of best-practice throughout the services. Employers retain primary responsibility for the management development of their staff and the Office intervenes only when a gap is identified in existing service provision or when a programme is best provided across the health services rather than within individual organisations.

It is in this context that the Office for Health Management commissioned its eLearning Programme an Introduction to Financial Management for Non-Financial Managers. This Programme is a direct response to the findings of a survey of all staff with management or supervisory responsibility commissioned by the Office, which indicated that they were keen to develop their financial management skills.

The Finance Management eLearning programme is a self-contained interactive online programme that has been developed for use by busy managers who wish to become familiar with the key concepts of Finance Management without having to attend an instructor-led programme.

The online learning materials use a combination of text, graphics, animations and simulations to engage the learner as they progress through each of the 4 primary themes within the programme: Key Concepts; Reporting; Costing and Auditing.

There is a range of interactive exercises, scenarios and case studies throughout the programme to encourage the learner to assimilate the theoretical concepts and apply them within their own work setting. Users can get immediate feedback on their answers by comparing their responses against those provided by experts within the field.

The programme also contains a randomised self-assessment multiple-choice questionnaire. If learners achieve over 70% success in the questionnaire the Programme can produce a personalised Office for Health Management Certificate of Completion. For those learners who do not achieve the 70% threshold mark, the programme takes on the role of an interactive tutor by directing them to those areas in the programme where they appear to be having difficulty.

An online evaluation form is also included within the programme to enable the Office for Health Management to gather feedback on the design of the programme and the more general eLearning needs and expectations of the healthcare workforce. This programme will also be made available on CD ROM.

The second programme being launched this morning focuses on the competencies required for management positions in nursing and midwifery. The Commission on Nursing in its report had recommended that the Office for Health Management undertake a study to identify these competencies. The competencies were developed and validated by consulting with groups of nurses and midwife managers and will inform the recruitment, selection, training and development of nurse managers, and enable nurses themselves to assess and plan their own development needs. That study has been completed and its findings have been widely circulated.

To maximise the potential of the Nurse Management Competency framework, the Office for Health Management has developed its Online Nurse Manager’s Competency Assessment Tool that comprises of a questionnaire that assists Nurse Managers in identifying their current strengths and development needs against the competency standards for each level of nursing management. The online tool also facilitates a 360° feedback as users can invite their managers, peers, and team members to complete the questionnaire evaluating their competencies from their colleagues’ perspective. Users can access a visual representation of their self-assessment and 360° degree assessment through the suite of online reports and charts available within this interactive tool.

A second feature of this programme is a Personal Development Pack, which is a collection of learning and development guidelines, categorised according to the competency models for each level of nursing management. The guidelines direct the user towards activities and resources that can help them fulfil their development needs.

The Online Competency Assessment Tool also contains an Administration Reporting facility that enables the Office for Health Management to collate the key information about the development needs of the nursing management community across the health service.

This Programme recognises the importance of empowering individual employees to take responsibility for their own development. It also recognises that the individual employee is often in the best position to determine their own development needs arising from rapid changes that are occurring in the workplace which make it difficult if not impossible for one person to prescribe for others what they should learn next. However well intentioned, compulsory programmes are probably the most sure fire way to impede the spread of commitment to personal development in an organisation.

A feature of most job and career development systems is the production of a personal development plan reflecting the individual’s learning style which identifies training and development needs and relates them to the organisation´s objectives and business plan. This programme goes a long way to addressing this issue.

I cannot let this occasion pass without acknowledging on behalf of the Office, the work carried out by the Institute of Public Administration, Saville & Holdsworth Limited and the Department of Nursing, University College Cork in relation to these Programmes, and by Aurion Ltd. in transferring these paper based packages to online accessibility.

Both of these developments are part of the Office for Health Management’s evolving policy on eLearning and Knowledge Management. They recognise the need to provide busy managers with the flexibility to access learning materials on demand at a time and place that suits their schedule. They also give the learner the ability to select which parts of the material to study and in which order. I am aware that the Office for Health Management is exploring other initiatives in this area, which should lead to greater flexibility in and access to management development for those working in our health services.

Finally I would like to congratulate the Office on these innovative eLearning Programmes and to underline the commitment and support of my Department to its on-going work in improving the management of the health services in Ireland. The resources that the Office offers help managers to meet the challenges, the opportunities and the demands of their role in a way that contributes to their organisation´s goals. The whole objective in this work is to improve the delivery of services and in that way contribute towards the improvement of the health status of our population.