CIHI brings home silver for excellence in training

CIHI brings home silver

Clinical assessors from across Canada are benefiting from an innovative and award-winning training program.

The clinical training program is a blended learning solution that combines

  • Paper-based and pre-recorded self-study modules
  • Video success stories
  • A face-to-face workshop

Together, these components are teaching front-line assessors how to complete the RAI-MDS 2.0© assessment on residents in long-term care and complex continuing care facilities.


The training program has won rave reviews from the Canadian Society of Training and Development (CSTD), enough to land the development team a silver award at the annual Canadian Awards for Training Excellence held on November 14.

“We are thrilled to be among the 14 silver winners that were selected this year, and really pleased with the recognition the award has brought,” says CIHI’s home and continuing care (HCC) lead Debbie Camelin, who heads up the team that developed the training solution. 

Used by many

The RAI-MDS 2.0 assessment is used by front-line clinicians in jurisdictions across Canada to capture health status information on residents. Information collected from this assessment is submitted to the Continuing Care Reporting System (CCRS) one of CIHI’s databases. Mandated in Ontario, the tool has also been widely adopted in other provinces.

For clinicians working on the front line, one of the benefits of the RAI-MDS 2.0 tool is that it provides decision-support information right away. This gives the assessors using the tool—nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other clinical specialists—the ability to set goals and put interventions in place based on outputs electronically generated from the assessment.

Clinicians also have the ability to monitor and evaluate those goals and interventions. Those organizations submitting data to CIHI also have access to aggregated information that supports decision-makers for benchmarking and comparisons across jurisdictions.

Making it real

Development of the training program took two years and involved consultations with front-line clinicians, ranging from a front-end analysis to online surveys and focus groups.

During the development phase, the team reached out to clinicians to seek real-life scenarios to include in the course. The team wanted to understand

  • What were the challenges with assessment?
  • What were the clinicians having trouble coding?
  • Were they using the resources and support materials available and, if not, why?

The team used the answers to these questions to help set goals and develop the content. Then they ran pilot sessions and sought feedback.

Transforming CIHI training: A new approach

One important criterion for winning the CSTD award was to demonstrate how the training program made an impact, says Patricia Furdek, Team Lead, Education and Conferences, who helped support the development of the training program and provided judges with access to the tool via CIHI’s Learning Centre.

In approaching the training, the development team set out to reduce a number of pain points for their learners, including

  • Travel time 
  • Time away from the job
  • The need to back-fill for learners on training

Building on the solid approach to distance learning established at CIHI, they made it a goal to reach more learners through web conferencing and to provide a pan-Canadian experience to support learning and collaboration among jurisdictions.

“We really took a new approach with this training,” says Camelin, adding that this course is all about “doing”—something she wholeheartedly supports. 

“We wanted to do something that would minimize the costs of face-to-face training, but we didn’t want to lose that connection with our learners. By incorporating videos and extensively using web conferencing,” she adds, “we didn’t have to.”  

Over the last few years, the team has shifted the emphasis of the course from notes and slides—more than 100 at one point now down to 20—to participant workbooks with activities.

Results speak for themselves

With a 60% reduction in annual HCC training costs for CIHI and a 40% increase in participants reached through training, the results speak for themselves. And though we can’t measure the direct impact on clients, says Camelin, we can assume they have benefited from similar savings.

Before this solution was developed, the team was delivering 30 to 60 face-to-face workshops a year. Now, the average is around 13, and many of these are delivered via web conference.

Judges scoring the entries gave the training solution high marks and recognized it as setting an “industry benchmark in the area of performance assessment and learning design analysis.” The strengths of the program, said the judges, were in its use of various learning activities (case studies, scenarios, problem-based exercises and simulations).

Lynn McNeely, a clinical specialist for the HCC team, is on the development team. “Having come from the clinical sector and being exposed to seeing the benefit of understanding and using information across health care sectors has been most valuable. 

“Hopefully, with the redevelopment of our training products, we can provide this type of experience for our clients and stakeholders.” 

On the horizon

What’s next? The team will pay close attention to the judges’ comments about how to improve the training, particularly the self-study portion of the course, which is something learners struggle with most. “People love to do hands-on work in a group setting,” says Camelin. “Independent reading? Not so much.” The team has also released four components of the program targeted at experienced assessors.

But for now, there’s no shortage of clients lining up to take the course.

© interRAI Corporation, Washington, D.C., 1995, 1997, 1999. Modified with permission for Canadian use under licence to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.