Learning off the grid: Taking the EXTRA experience to new heights

It began on a ski hill.

Learning off the grid: Taking the EXTRA experience to new heightsFrom February 6-10, 36 health professionals from across Canada gathered in Vancouver for the final module of their 14-month EXTRA fellowship.

Entitled Sustaining and Scaling-Up the Improvement Project and Sharing Key Learnings, Module 4 is dedicated to planning for the spread of the improvement project that the EXTRA cohort’s 10 teams have been working on for the past year.

Through lectures, group work, a panel discussion, and facilitated Q&A, EXTRA’s expert faculty and invited guests delivered a rich curriculum for Module 4 that included sessions on the power of public narrative, system transformation, complex adaptive systems, governance and accountability, and more.

But the learning wasn’t limited to the classroom.

Remote education

The residency kicked off with a field trip to Whistler, B.C., where novice and experienced skiers alike enjoyed a day of fresh powder and chilly mountain air.

Jenn Goodwin, an EXTRA Fellow and Vice-President, Community Partnerships & Chief Communications Officer with Providence Care in Kingston, Ontario, sums up her EXTRA experience using an analogy from her experience on the ski hill. (Goodwin tried skiing for the very first time during Whistler outing.)

“At first, it’s new and scary,” Goodwin says. “But once you have the basics and realize it’s achievable, that fear turns to excitement and hope.”

In addition to providing a chance for some healthy physical activity, the day in Whistler was also a time for bonding and networking for the 36 EXTRA Fellows, all of whom are experts in their field and passionate leaders of quality improvement.

Impromptu chats and ad hoc conversations led to a deeper understanding of the joys and challenges faced by peer organizations. Faculty members, too, listened and offered their guidance and advice.

The highlight of the residency came on the final day, with the presentation of the spread plans. Members of the 10 EXTRA improvement teams drew on what they had learned over the week and took turns outlining how they were planning to spread their improvement project once they got back to their home organization.

EXTRA is a fully bilingual program that builds leadership and organizational capacity to achieve breakthrough improvement that enhances patient and family experience of care, the health of populations and value-for-money.

The value of leadership

“There is a real need nationally for people in healthcare in Canada to collaborate,” says Jim Handyside, co-lead of EXTRA’s Module 4 and a recognized quality improvement professional. “EXTRA offers novel ways of engaging, communicating and connecting leaders, both new and experienced.”

EXTRA Fellow Brigitte Martel is the Director of Nursing for Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec Université Laval. Together with the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de Capitale Nationale, her organization is working on a project to improve the transition between home and hospital for seniors.

As someone identified as a “young leader” by her organization, Martel is keen to absorb all she can from the EXTRA experience so that she and her team can do what they can to move improvement forward.

“Like a lot of organizations, ours is going through a time of change,” she explains. “EXTRA is providing us with the tools we need to anticipate the challenges and come up with solutions.”

With more than 150 staff members reporting to her, Martel is aware of the responsibilities that come with being a leader.

“I understand that I’m in a leadership position, and I respect what that means,” she says. “EXTRA is helping me to see and understand things differently – to go beyond the day-to-day operations and focus on motivating and supporting others. That’s how transformation truly happens.”