What Makes You Remember?

We all learn differently, and in 2024, the Pandora’s box of educational opportunities can be almost overwhelming. Education isn’t optional as professionals dedicated to our work and patient safety. We have specific CE credits necessary to maintain certifications and keep up with the rapid influx of new technology. In fact, it’s no wonder we have multiple errors just keeping up with all the new devices thrown our way and their instructions for use (IFUs), which include decontamination, assembly, and sterilization parameters. Then the finger gets pointed at you as the incompetent technician: “How did you not know that?” or “We had an in-service just last week.” It’s overwhelming.

Some facilities have incredible educators, competency-based learnings, and software/tools that help us manage the chaos. Still, sometimes, despite the umpteenth system, workflow, and process, you are left floundering and confused. This might be because your learning style doesn’t process the information delivered to you. You are left sitting there like a robot muttering “404 Page Not Found,” “Cannot process,” or “Does not compute.”

In this write-up, we want to help you identify your learning style so that you can marry it to the resources available to you and pivot as needed to create retention. Of course, your desired learning style isn’t always available in-house, but it is available somewhere. Understanding how you learn best will benefit you in your sterile processing and future career growth regardless of your goals.

Four types of learning

Visual learning: If you are a visual learner, you prefer to use images, graphics, and colors to communicate ideas and thoughts. Visual learners must see information to learn it. Watching instructional videos on new sterilization techniques or equipment can enhance visual learning and inform you about the latest practices. You will likely have a photographic memory and might use color, tone, and brightness to recall information. In class, visual learners will benefit from seeing diagrams drawn out or in slide shows.

Resources:  Watch YouTube and instructional videos, watch webinars, stay honed in during in-services and presentations, and use photos in tracking systems to solidify knowledge.

Auditory learning:  If you are an auditory learner, you soak things in best by listening. Music, video clips, and conversations are your ideal way of learning. Auditory learners tend to do well in a traditional school environment by listening to lectures and contributing to discussions. Participating in team discussions during training sessions can benefit you greatly. Engaging in conversations about the proper handling of instruments and devices reinforces auditory learning. Recording verbal instructions or discussions about specific details will allow you to revisit and reinforce your understanding.

Resources: Podcasts, in-services, video series, group panels, or huddles.

Reading/writing learning: If you are a reading/writing learner (it’s pretty self-explanatory), you prefer to learn information by reading notes, handouts, and textbooks. You can make use of manuals and other reference materials. You also benefit by rewriting notes and rereading notes silently again and again. Writing out step-by-step procedures can help reinforce your understanding. Reading and re-reading materials related to equipment maintenance and protocols is essential for retention.

Resources: Written competency checklists and educational articles, taking notes while watching webinars, and reading IFUs and directions in tracking systems before set assembly. Manuals and textbooks are your friends.

Kinesthetic learning: You are a kinesthetic learner if you retain information by doing rather than (only) by seeing or listening. When you engage in some physical activity during learning, that’s when you can expect the best learning outcome. You benefit from hands-on activities and practical experiences. Participating in scenarios allows for a physical understanding of things like set assembly or complex device reprocessing. Reviewing materials while incorporating movement, such as walking through the department, can help kinesthetic learners internalize information. Taking short breaks during training sessions to engage in physical activities can enhance focus and retention.

Different strokes for different folks

Everyone learns differently, and it’s time to really hone in on what works for you. By tailoring training methods to your learning style, you can optimize your learning experience and enhance your proficiency in whatever subject you are trying to retain. Whether through visual aids, group discussions, written documentation, or hands-on activities, adapting a suitable approach can lead to more effective and well-rounded skills for you. So, if listening to a podcast helps you, do it. If having a coworker show you how to take apart a new Kerrison multiple times until you can do it yourself works, do it. If you need to watch a recorded webinar in the comfort of your home while taking notes and color-coordinating them, go for it.

Our learning approaches are not all the same, so jump onto Google and look up “What is my learning style?” You will get multiple options to help you drill down to what works best for you, uniquely. Share with management or your educator how you indeed learn best and they might just have so ideas for you as well. The setting for your learning is not always up to you to decide, but pivoting during your own self-study time and figuring out how to translate your knowledge into competent action is possible. Let’s all strive for better knowledge retention and learn how to apply our knowledge to make positive career strides. You’ve got this!