Athletes develop muscle memory on the field, musicians rehearse seated as they would in the orchestra pit, and soldiers train in battlefield conditions. Is being a healthcare professional somehow different in needing the ability to meld ability with application and awareness?

For many healthcare professionals, though, learning new information, skills, and procedures often involves leaving the workplace environment in order to attend classes or access online instruction elsewhere onsite. While both facilitator-led instruction and online learning are proven and accepted forms of training (when designed and delivered properly), training away from the action of the clinical setting is usually at the expense of the learner’s enjoyment, their engagement in the instruction, and their ability to sustain the training and successfully apply it later.

How many of us have been in a learning lab in front of a computer mindlessly clicking through bullet-point text screens trying to reach the end of the course just to earn a mandated “completion” status for the latest organization-wide initiative? How many of us have been pulled away from daily responsibilities only to be placed inside an instructional artifice and forced to multi-task by absorbing the learning, sifting through its relevance, and then visualizing how to apply the parts that are actually applicable to workplace reality? Perhaps worst of all, once we return back to our work environment we find that being away for training often includes a pile of work to catch up on that accumulated while we were gone – effectively doubling the impact that training away from the work environment has on productivity. Plus, most of time you train solo without your leader and team members.

Instead of commoditizing the learning experience in order to maximize throughput or bluntly leverage resources, what if the focus was on customizing the instruction to best suit the learner to maximize impact, application, and sustainment? Using story to engage the human mind – the most powerful simulator ever created – is a proven and universal way to stimulate learner visualization of applying the training at the same time it is being comprehended. This “time compression” of learning and visualization is compounded when it occurs in the environment where it will be applied. Learners are fully engaged and most receptive to important information, new behaviors being demonstrated, and how to take action in a situation. Immersing themselves inside the story and viscerally experiencing it while at the workplace melds the unfamiliarity of the instruction with the daily reality of their work environment. What may not have been done before seems that much easier to accomplish when you’ve already imagined yourself doing it in the place where you work.

Combining the power of story, with the real world setting of the actual workplace, and the ability to visualize and embed new behaviors and practices without distraction or artifice shortens the distance between training, implementation, practice and sustainment.