Conducting a rigorous needs assessment as part of the development of an educational intervention will ensure that your education will make a measurable, positive difference within your organisation.
What is a needs assessment?
A needs assessment is a systematic process of identifying a gap in knowledge, skill or practice that answers the question: ‘will education fix this problem?’
As nurse educators, a needs assessment should form the basis from which all education is planned, developed and implemented in our organisation. It will ensure that your educational interventions:
- Address a gap in knowledge, skill or practice
- Enable our learners to close or narrow that gap
- Increase the standard of care that our patients receive
How do we conduct a needs assessment?
At Ausmed, we ask ourselves five key questions when conducting a needs assessment:
- So what?
- How will you know?
Question 1: What?
In the first question, we ask:
- What is currently happening that shouldn’t happen?
- What isn’t happening that should happen?
- What is the professional practice gap? And is this a gap in knowledge, skill or practice?
Answering these questions will enable you to establish an overview of the problem.
Question 2: Why?
Once a professional practice gap has been identified, we ask: why do we need to close or narrow this professional practice gap? To validate this, we can look towards numerous data sources including:
- New and emerging evidence
- New policies/standards released by professional bodies
- Past learner evaluations
- Patient/client feedback
- Incident reports
Question 3: So what?
This question focusses on the learning outcomes of the educational intervention. In healthcare, a learning outcome is defined as something that is the result of, or is the consequence of planned education. Learning outcomes describe the desired state and must be:
- Reflective of a professional practice gap
Defining clear learning outcomes will allow you to identify and qualify any change that reflects a closing of the professional practice gap.
Question 4: How?
In this component of the needs assessment we ask: how will you design an educational intervention to close or narrow the professional practice gap? A number of considerations arise including:
- What type of education will you plan?
- Will it be a one-off session? Or will it be ongoing?
- What’s your target audience?
Question 5: How will you know?
Finally, we need to determine whether the professional practice gap has been closed or narrowed as a result of our educational intervention. This is done through evaluation, which provides educators with the opportunity to collect key data around return on investment. Evaluation also gives the learner a chance to reflect on the educational activity, consider how their practice will change and the barriers to implementing what they have learned.