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It’s the time of year when recent graduates trade in textbooks for diplomas and enter the workforce. But there’s one lesson that they’ll soon discover, if they haven’t already: learning never ends, no matter how many degrees a person accumulates. Ongoing education is a key to success in any career, and technologies like cloud computing can make those lessons collaborative. 

To promote lifelong learning in healthcare, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), an international public health agency, runs the Virtual Campus for Public Health, or VCPH. The program pairs health workers with colleagues at other institutions to promote education and to improve public health. The VCPH offers a broad range of course types, from self-directed online classes to country and region-specific courses aimed to educate and train healthcare workers on the latest diseases and treatments affecting patients in their areas. The program also employs the “massive open online course,” or MOOC, model by offering virtual courses taught by experts from medical institutions all over the Americas.

The program emphasizes collaboration between health professionals and institutions. All health professionals can register to take the free classes, share research, or work with colleagues in other countries to develop and teach courses. For one recent two-month course, the PAHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada collaborated to train health workers in the Caribbean on the basics of disease surveillance and containment.

"Virtual training such as this one are of much importance, particularly in the Caribbean, where face-to-face training opportunities are scarce and, often expensive," says Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the PAHO. 

Lifelong, collaborative learning is valuable in healthcare to keep nurses and doctors up-to-date on the latest technologies, treatment methods and scientific research — and is a critical step toward improving health. The Initiative on the Future of Nursing, a two-year partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine, lists lifelong learning as one of its top recommendations to improve nursing. The organization also stresses the need for collaboration among institutions and health experts.

The Virtual Campus for Public Health is one example of how individuals and organizations can work together, across international and company lines, toward a common goal. Lives aren’t at stake in every industry, of course, but smart organizations should apply the VCPH’s lessons about the value of collaboration and lifelong learning to increase engagement, productivity, and the impact of a job well done. 

Photo: Can Stock