Multi-Skilling “Jack of All Trades Master of None?”

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Multi-skilling “Jack of all trades master of none?”
Gerald R. Snider
June 14, 2010
Wayland Baptist University
David Gomez

Abstract
In today’s Health Care arena where economics is failing and healthcare workers are looking for a reason to stay in the business, it is important to look at every tool available to make that happen. Multi-skilling is a unique tool available that if used correctly could combine technical and administrative duties normally held by several different employees into one job. This paper explores the multi-skill lifecycle model used, associated elements, stages and criteria needed to properly implement this process. It also explores recent challenges that are specific to the medical field when this model is used and how the healthcare industry can implement this process to help it with downsizing and reorganization issues.

My research found few studies that explicitly or specifically considered the affects of multi-skilling on the healthcare industry and its affects on patient care. Consequently, general management literature was reviewed with the aim of identifying the model used; generic issues and lessons learned that can be applied across the field of resource management. The literature considers issues relating to the efficacy and success of multi-skilling which could impinge on the integrity of healthcare and patient safety in the workplace. The review considers general effects of multi-skilling with the aim of identifying the problems which may have in impact on healthcare and patient safety and considers the drivers of multi-skilling as it influences the approach and required focus of controls.

Because this term applies to a broad range of industries there can be many definitions and applications to this process. The medical industry has defined it as such: Persons cross-trained to provide more than one function, often in more than one discipline. These combined functions can be found in a broad spectrum of health-related jobs ranging in complexity from the non-professional to the professional level, including both clinical and management functions. The additional functions (skills) added to the original health care worker’s job may be of a higher, lower, or parallel level.(Jacobson and Johnson,1998,p.679) Other industries describe multi-skilling as a way of working where the traditional divisions between work areas and separate disciplines are removed, and individuals are given the responsibility for a range of different types of task.

Vertical Multi-skilling – This is where support personnel have learned enough supervisory and administrative tasks and move up into a supervisor role. This can be either considered a form of empowerment or if this process occurs due to downsizing, often we see individuals that lack the ability to lead or have not been trained properly. Horizontal Multi-skilling - This is learning skills from another discipline or function within an organization. For example an electrician learns some mechanical tasks or a process operator learning some maintenance skills. Horizontal Multi-skilling can be considered as two main types: • Skill broadening – where minor elements and tasks are learned on top of the predominant activity (major task). So expertise is maintained in the major task with elements added to increase efficiency. For example, a mechanical engineer may learn how to isolate and disconnect a motor to avoid the use of an electrician. • Cross skilling/dual skilling – where another major activity is learned in addition to the main craft and a person is considered competent to carry out any activity in these two main disciplines. For example, multi-skilled craftsmen considered competent to carry out both mechanical and electrical tasks. Typically some limits will be placed on the types of safety critical work that can be carried out. (Horbury & Wright,2001,p.3) Depth multi-skilling – This is where more in-depth, complex...
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