Upskilling and ReskillingFebruary 12, 2024

The Power of Cross-Training: 9 Benefits of Training Your Healthcare Team for Expanded Job Functions

Article by Christina DeBusk
A woman types on a keyboard and another woman looks at a computer screen while several others work in the background

Cross-training provides employees with the education and skills needed to perform tasks outside their normal job duties or to fill different roles. Expanding workers’ skill sets can help healthcare organizations create more versatile teams of talent. It can also contribute to a more resilient workforce.1

If you don’t currently have a cross-training strategy in place, there are several reasons to develop one. Here we share nine distinct benefits of skill expansion training in healthcare, along with the one step you can take next to put an effective solution in place.

#1: Greater Adaptation to Change

If there was ever a time when healthcare organizations needed to not only adapt to change but to pivot quickly, it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some organizations, their adaptation was supported by instituting cross-training efforts, enabling those facilities to better meet the constantly evolving needs and demands they experienced.

As an example, research published in Healthcare Quarterly in April 2022 outlined how an urban community hospital cross-trained nursing staff to help support the growing number of patients in intensive care.2 It also noted that tailoring the cross-training program to the specific healthcare role resulted in a more positive reception from the workers involved than when these employees were exposed to general skills training.

The ability to adapt is a key component of resilience in healthcare, with long-term adaptations preferred to short-term options since the latter can leave an organization more vulnerable.3 Cross-training offers a more lasting solution to a changing healthcare environment, strengthening an organization’s ability to withstand even industry-wide disruptions.

#2: Promotes Teamwork

The collaborative care model involves medical and behavioral health professionals working together to provide patient-centered care. This requires a certain degree of teamwork, which can be promoted by implementing a cross-training strategy.

Through cross-training, workers gain more insight into the importance of other healthcare roles, as well as how the two roles – their current role and the new role – work together, leading to greater team effectiveness.4 Cross-training also helps workers better understand how their role impacts entire healthcare teams.5

#3: Improves Patient Care

Another benefit of cross-training healthcare employees is improved patient care. It provides this effect in part through increasing the worker’s knowledge and promoting teamwork, both of which enhance patient communication and directly affect patient care.6

Research also suggests that cross-training can improve patient health outcomes in “chaotic or unprecedented situations” by allowing for greater plasticity and adaptation during these times. This includes not only situations such as those seen during the pandemic but everyday staffing challenges as well. If a staff member needs to suddenly leave work, for example, other employees can quickly step in and continue providing services.

Healthcare Quality Theory proposes that the higher the quality of care that a patient experiences, the greater their level of satisfaction with that care.7 Thus, if cross-training improves patient care, it can also indirectly affect how satisfied your patients are with your products or services.

#4: Reduces Worker Burnout

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on March 23, 2023, involved 206 large healthcare organizations and reported that, from April to December of 2020, almost half of all healthcare workers surveyed – including both clinical and non-clinical staff – felt burnt out.8 Additionally, burnout was linked to perceived work overload, and the more burnt out the workers were, the greater their intent to leave.

Cross-training is an overlooked strategy for reducing burnout in healthcare. It can ease the stress on workers by allowing for greater flexibility in the workplace.9 Implementing a cross-training strategy may even prevent burnout by helping healthcare workers continuously progress toward their desired goals, also potentially reducing disengagement, turnover rates, and position vacancies due to career dissatisfaction and stagnation.10

#5: Eases Healthcare Staffing Shortages

Staffing shortages in healthcare were present long before the pandemic but worsened during this time due to several factors, some of which included not enough staff training sites or faculty and increased worker burnout.11 Healthcare staffing shortages can not only leave remaining workers feeling exhausted by picking up the slack, but they can also impact patient care.

Developing multi-skilled team members helps position healthcare organizations to better handle staffing shortages.12 You’re able to move cross-trained workers to higher-demand roles as needed more seamlessly since these professionals are trained to perform the duties the other role requires.

#6: Supports Career Development

Cross-training also aids in employees’ professional growth. In a June 2021 Gallup upskilling survey, 56% of healthcare practitioners and 53% of healthcare support workers indicated that they were interested in upgrading their skill sets or learning new skills for professional advancement.13 Providing them access to cross-training programs can help these employees work toward their career goals.

Cross-training can also support professional development by empowering professionals to take the next steps in their desired career pathways. Attending professional development training helps boost employees’ confidence by closing existing talent gaps and improving their performance.14 This increased confidence can give them the nudge they need to pursue other healthcare roles.

#7: Prepares Staff for Leadership Roles

If some of your employees strive to be promoted to healthcare management positions, or you’d like to move certain talent into a supervisory role, cross-training can assist with leadership development. One way it does this is by increasing the professional’s knowledge of the roles they would manage. Cross-training also helps future leaders understand how each role and/or team under their charge contributes to the organization as a whole.

Cross-functional training also plays a role in succession planning. Succession planning involves preparing employees to step into higher-level roles quickly should those higher roles suddenly become vacant. This could occur due to a leader falling ill, having to take an unexpected leave, or even in cases of death. Developing a cross-training strategy helps create more versatile talent that is ready to fill these roles with minimal notice.

#8: Increases Employee Motivation

Many healthcare employees struggle with motivation at work. In fact, one multi-country survey revealed that low worker motivation was the second-most important healthcare workforce challenge, only being beaten out by staffing shortages.15

A 2021 study involving 43 organizations and 535 individuals found that when employees in interactive and independent positions received cross-training opportunities, they put forth extra effort to complete activities outside of their designated roles.16 This suggests that cross-training may instigate a motivational effect.

#9: Cost-Effective Training Option

Budgeting is a critical activity for healthcare organizations. Being fiscally responsible not only enables product and service providers to stay in business, but also has impacts on individual, organizational, community, and national levels — affecting everything from patient experience and outcomes to healthcare access and delivery.17

Cross-training programs can be secured at affordable rates, enabling organizations to optimize their healthcare budgets long-term while still providing employees access to the courses they need to increase their knowledge and skills.

Nasium Training: Your Partner in Cross-Training Strategy Development

Whether your goal is to foster learning and development in your healthcare organization or you’re interested in building an agile workforce for the future, cross-training can help. Nasium Training offers customizable solutions designed to address your unique workforce issues, needs, and goals.

Nasium Training’s cross-training solutions can help you address staffing shortages, prepare staff for leadership positions, and more. These solutions are also stackable, enabling you to promote professional development and career pathing.

Different healthcare organizations face different challenges, each one requiring a specialized solution. Nasium Training can develop the right solution for your team. We provide several cross-training, upskilling, and reskilling series options.

1 Cristancho S, Thompson G. Building Resilient Healthcare Teams: Insights from Analogy to the Social Biology of Ants, Honey Bees and Other Social Insects. Perspectives on Medical Education.

2 Reguindin J, Capoccitti K, Serapion V. Cross-Training Nurses to Support an Intensive Care Unit During a Pandemic: An Urban Community Hospital Experience. Healthcare Quarterly.

3 Bø Lyng H, et al. Balancing Adaptation and Innovation for Resilience in Healthcare – A Metasynthesis of Narratives. BMC Health Services Research.

4 Indeed for Employers. Cross-Training Staff: What It Is and How to Do It.

5 Zajac S, Woods A, Tannenbaum S, Salas E, Holladay C. Overcoming Challenges to Teamwork in Healthcare: A Team Effectiveness Framework and Evidence-Based Guidance. Frontiers in Communication.

6 Wood S, Cichocki M, Chung K. Strategies to foster creativity. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

7 Afrashtehfar K, Assery M, Bryant S. Patient Satisfaction in Medicine and Dentistry. International Journal of Dentistry.

8 Rotenstein L, Brown R, Sinsky C, Linzer M. The Association of Work Overload with Burnout and Intent to Leave the Job Across the Healthcare Workforce During COVID-19. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

9 Reeves V, Schaefer D, Glover S. Getting by With Less: How to Do More With Less Staff After COVID-19? The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

10 Good V, Atchison J. What’s My Next Step? Navigating Nursing Career Progression. Nursing Management.

11 American Hospital Association. AHA Senate Statement on “Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here?”

12 Patel S, et al. Expedited Cross-Training: An Approach to Help Mitigate Nurse Staffing Shortages. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development.

13 Gallup. The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow.

14 Indeed Career Guide. Building Self-Confidence: 10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence.

15 Karaferis D, Aletras V, Raikou M, Niakas D. Factors Influencing Motivation and Work Engagement of Healthcare Professionals. Materia Socio Medica.

16 Hernaus T, Černe M, Škerlavaj M. The Interplay between Relational Job Design and Cross-Training in Predicting Employee Job/Task Citizenship Performance. Human Resource Development Quarterly.

17 Zhang R, Bohlen J. Healthcare Business Budgeting. StatPearls [Internet].

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