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The Importance of Needs Assessment Analysis

Introduction

Nurses and other health professionals often undertake a needs assessment analysis before initiating change efforts aimed at bringing about improvements in the healthcare setting (Mitchell, 2013). This paper details a needs assessment that aims to increase the satisfaction of patients visiting the oncology (cancer) clinic.

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Data Points

The data points needed for the assessment include the number of complaints received from patients in the last one year, age and ethnic composition of patients visiting the clinic, number of nurses and physicians assigned to the clinic, and the average wait time (Arraras et al., 2014). Other data points include doctor availability, adherence to appointments, tumor location, interpersonal skills of treating physicians, coordination within the clinic environment, and timeliness of care (Mathews, Ryan, & Bulman, 2015).

Use of a Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is important as it enables the identification of the major causes of dissatisfaction with care among the patients visiting the oncology clinic. A needs assessment is also important in identifying the underlying factors that cause dissatisfaction with care and the characteristics of individuals most affected. With this information, it becomes easy for change agents within the oncology clinic to identify and prioritize the various actions that are needed to address the problem of patient dissatisfaction with care (Pennel, McLeroy, Burdine, & Matarrita-Cascante, 2015). Owing the systematic collection of information which is closely associated with the needs assessment process, stakeholders are more likely to develop and implement an effective change management initiative that addresses the needs and wants (gaps) of patients visiting the oncology clinic. Lastly, available literature demonstrates that performing a needs assessment is important in specifying a desired outcome based on the objectives of the change management effort, collecting data to determine the current state of the oncology patients in relation to the desired outcome of increasing patient satisfaction, and formulating needs statements based on the differences between current and desired outcomes (Eifert & Eddy, 2012; Pennel et al., 2015).

Needs Assessment Process

The first stage in a needs assessment process entails the investigation of what is already known about the needs of the target group with the view to identifying various concerns and determining measurable indicators of the identified needs. This stage helps in determining the focus and scope of the needs assessment through a consideration of the available data sources and how they relate to the target audience. The exploration of needs and gaps is important in deciding preliminary priorities and gaining commitment for the remaining stages of the assessment (Eifert & Eddy, 2012). For example, the change agent in the oncology clinic may use available data to determine concerns such as number of complaints received, number of available doctors within the clinic, average wait times, and coordination of care.

The second stage involves gathering data that will assist in defining and prioritizing the needs of the target population. This stage documents the status of the target population by using the concerns and needs identified to compare the current situation with the desired outcome. Here, an analysis of the causes helps to not only determine the magnitude of the problem, but also to set the needs statements in a tentative order of priority based on the criticality of the identified needs as well as their underlying causes (Pennel et al., 2015). For example, an analysis of data in the oncology clinic may serve to demonstrate that many patients complain and are unable to honor their appointments due to concerns of doctor availability, lack of effective interpersonal skills among professionals, and lack of proper coordination within the clinic environment.

The last section entails coming up with plans that enable the utilization of the information obtained from the needs assessment in a practical way. Such a plan, according to Eifert and Eddy (2012), should demonstrate the capacity to set priority needs, identify possible solutions, select solution strategies, and propose an action intervention. This stage is commonly seen as the bridge from the needs analysis to quantifiable and measurable action plans as it identifies the best intervention from a number of possible solutions through the acknowledgement of the most critical needs or concerns. Using the example of the oncology clinic, the change agent may choose to prioritize the training of staff on interpersonal skills to increase patient satisfaction. Such prioritization is based on a multiplicity of factors, including the availability of funds to undertake the training.

Role of Nurse Administrator

The nurse administrator should be at the forefront in providing strong and visible leadership to team members tasked with the responsibility of undertaking the needs assessment. The nurse administrator is also tasked with designing the deliverables for the needs assessment, including coming up with a framework to identify the needs and determining the indicators that should be used to measure the needs. Additionally, the administrator should lead capacity building efforts that aim to facilitate evidence-based clinical nurse leadership in dealing with the issues emanating from the needs assessment (Rankin, 2015; Severinsson, 2014). Lastly, the administrator should spearhead all issues related to funding, planning, decision making, and prioritization.

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Conclusion

This paper has used the problem of patient dissatisfaction to demonstrate important tenets of a needs assessment analysis that can be undertaken with the view to increasing the satisfaction of patients visiting the oncology (cancer) department. Overall, it is evident that a needs assessment analysis is an important prerequisite to any change efforts aimed at improving the delivery of care in healthcare settings.

References

Arraras, J., Illarramendi, J.J., Viudez, A., Ibanez, B., Lecumberri, M.J., de la Cruz, S.,…Vera, R. (2013). Determinants of patient satisfaction with care in a Spanish oncology day hospital and its relationship with quality of life. Psycho-Oncology, 22(11), 2454-2461. Web.

Eifert, E.K., & Eddy, J. (2012). The role of needs assessments in enhancing support service utilization by family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. American Journal of Health Studies, 27(4), 227-235.

Mathews, M., Ryan, D., & Bulman, D. (2015). What does satisfaction with wait times mean to cancer patients? BMC Cancer, 15(2), 1-7. Web.

Mitchell, G. (2012). Selecting the best theory to implement planned change. Nursing Management, 20(1), 32-37.

Pennel, C.L., McLeroy, K.R., Burdine, J.N., Matarrita-Cascante, D. (2015). Nonprofit hospitals’ approach to community health needs assessment. American Journal of Public Health, 105(3), e103-e113. Web.

Rankin, V. (2015). Clinical nurse leader: A role for the 21st century. MEDSURG Nursing, 24(3), 199-198.

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Severinsson, E. (2014). Capacity building – A challenge for nurse managers. Journal of Nursing Management, 22(4), 407-409. Web.

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