It was March 2020 when our company sent everyone home to work remotely. What we thought would only be a few weeks turned into almost two years. By the end of April 2020, we realized that we were missing our connectedness with each other and opportunities for professional development. Conferences we planned to attend for our personal professional development were being canceled or postponed. When COVID-19 hit, our company provided a virtual platform to conduct meetings. Could we seize the opportunity to use the new technology to stay connected and continue our professional development? We decided to give it a try and created a virtual book club to keep us growing, keep us together and lessen the feelings of isolation.
Book clubs have been around for centuries. The earliest record of one in America was in 1634 when Anne Hutchinson organized a discussion group about sermons while on a ship to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.1 In 1727, Benjamin Franklin brought recognition to book clubs when he organized the Philadelphia literary society called Junto.1 A book club is considered to be a group of people who come together at regular intervals to discuss the book they have chosen to read together. After reading a section, chapter or the entire book, they meet to ask questions and share thoughts, ideas and opinions about what was read. This process is an example of group reflective practice where a facilitator supports discussions on issues common to the group. Several studies indicate that group reflective practice reports benefits of enhanced learning, improved collaborative competence, job satisfaction, well-being and increased professionalism.2 The socio-constructivism theory of learning applies to this type of group learning interaction; each individual internally processes the new content, and the learning is enhanced through the active interactions with the others in the discussions.2
We organically applied this process to our book club, which we started on May 6, 2020. As the four full-time educators, we set aside 30 minutes every Wednesday afternoon for our discussions. We guarded the time by using a repeating appointment on our calendars. We tried to stay within the allotted 30 minutes but gave ourselves permission to go overtime when great ideas came forth that needed further discussion. At our first meeting, we decided what book we wanted to tackle. We also set up a schedule to read the designated chapter on our own time prior to the meeting. The first book we chose was “Instructional Story Design.”3 Through our book club discussions, we learned how to write compelling stories that we have continued to use in writing case studies within our educational activities.
Over the course of the first few weeks, we realized that we had created something special — a safe place to openly discuss the book and how we could or could not use the information or ideas within our organization. We were able to have frank conversations about the barriers to change and how to overcome them. To create this atmosphere of openness, we agreed that what was discussed in our meetings stayed in our meetings. We were able to ask open-ended questions and actively listen to each other with the intent to understand. This atmosphere fostered creativity and acceptance of the diversity of perspectives that each of us brought to what was read. We quickly realized that we were learning as much from each other as we were learning from the book. Together, we generated many ideas from these rich discussions. For example, from reading and discussing the book, “Make It Stick,”4 we discovered new learning strategies to incorporate into our activities to enhance retention and how to make the learning “stick.” We have now started to use these evidence-based methodologies, such as boosting and adding questions within the content.
While thinking outside the box, we elaborated on the book club idea to include other types of educational formats, such as parts of the ACCME CE Toolkit, a manual on test question design, webinar content and podcasts. We started to bring key content learned from attending conferences back to our team. For example, the educators who attended the Alliance Annual Conference summarized several sessions applicable to our work and discussed the handouts with the rest of the team. Instead of a routine report, the team brainstormed new ideas — some of which we have been able to implement into our educational designs.
Using all types of content to discuss in a book club or group reflective practice-type setting can be an innovative way to ignite creativity and provide another path for professional development for the team. To be successful, commitment to dedicated discussion time and providing a safe space is essential.5 This process encourages sharing different perspectives and enhances team relationships, all while furthering professional development. Through COVID-19 and beyond, this strategy has kept our team connected and helped to prevent burnout.
- Otto A. The evolution of American book clubs: a timeline. Minnpost, https://www.minnpost.com/books/2009/09/evolution-american-book-clubs-timeline/. Published 9/15/2009.
- Alsio A, Petterson A, Silen C. Health care leader’s perspectives on how continuous professional development can be promoted in a hospital organization. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. 2022;42(3):159-163.
- Greene R. Instructional Story Design. ATD Press; 2020.
- Brown PC, Roediger HL, McDaniel MA. Make It Stick. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 2014.
- Faragher K. How Leaders Can Create Safe Spaces for Difficult Conversations. Training Industry. https://trainingindustry.com/articles/leadership/how-to-create-safe-spaces-for-difficult-conversations/. Published June 22, 2022.
Sharon Cusanza, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, joined LAMMICO in 2014 and brings many years of hospital experience with her including multiple nursing specialties, nursing administration and over 20 years in quality management, patient safety and risk reduction. She has coordinated Joint Commission Accreditation Surveys for several hospitals along with an NCQA Accreditation for a managed care company. She has spent over 10 years in nursing administration of a large hospital where she successfully directed the Magnet® Recognition Program through two re-designation cycles.
Ms. Cusanza earned her bachelor of science in nursing from the Louisiana State University and her master of science in nursing from the University of South Alabama. She is certified in executive nursing from the American Nurses' Credentialing Center (ANCC) and holds a certificate in the Fundamentals of Magnet. Her passion is nursing and medical excellence and patient safety. At LAMMICO, she is responsible for the oversight of medical and nursing education and accreditation. She has been instrumental in achieving ACCME accreditation with commendation and ANCC accreditation with distinction. She has also led the efforts in expanding our education library and achieving approvals for maintenance of certification credits for most of our CME.