Four Insights About Learning Communities

Posted on by Karen Flom

At the beginning of this year we began an experiment with Catalysis Healthcare Value Network member organization, PeaceHealth, and a handful of other eager healthcare organizations around the idea of creating a learning community. The goal was for PeaceHealth to share about their Safety STOP program and help other healthcare organizations develop one of their own. (We look forward to sharing more specifics soon!)

I believe that learning, sharing, and connecting with others is very powerful for anyone on a continuous improvement journey. I was thrilled about the opportunity to work with this learning community. Here are some of my insights from an inspiring eight-month journey with five amazing organizations.

It’s Important to Create a Transparent Climate

The right climate is key to a successful learning community. In this learning community we agreed that all participants were going to be transparent with their information, learning, and progress toward their goal. Each organization within this group was completely open with one another and freely shared information. PeaceHealth, the innovator of the Safety STOP program, even shared templates and standard work so that others did not have to recreate the wheel. The over-arching theme in this learning community was that they were all working toward a common goal – to keep everyone (patients and staff) safe – and they all wanted to help each other make that happen.

Everyone Participating is a Learner and a Teacher

From the beginning PeaceHealth wanted to share how they built their Safety STOP program and also create an environment where they could continue to learn on their journey right along with the other organizations. I think this was in large part due to the humble attitude that David Allison, Dr. Andrea Halliday, and Molly Rank had going into this experience. They wanted to improve their program just as much as other organizations wanted to implement a similar program. During our periodic follow up conversations each participant would share their progress toward launching a Safety STOP program; what they tried since our last meeting, what barriers they were facing, and how they could leverage the learning.

It Accelerates the Learning of All Participants

A learning community is a great way to accelerate the learning of all participants. The main reason for this is that everyone can leverage the collective experience of the group. Sometimes this means getting a jump start with some standard work or processes already created that can be modified to suit your needs. Other times this means hearing another member reflect on a setback they had so you can make adjustments based on their learning.

Commitment is Key to Success

Lastly, it is important that all members of a learning community be committed to the community and the goal. This means that everyone contributes and the group members hold each other accountable. In our experience with the Safety STOP learning community the commitment of the participating organizations was key to everyone’s success and to the overall experience.

When I think of a learning community, I think of a group that comes together with a common goal where everyone wants to be transparent in the hopes of helping everyone succeed. If all participants are committed to the group and allow themselves to be both learners and teachers, this can lead to extraordinary results for not only those involved, but the community they serve.


Karen Flom, Director of Education


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