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Measuring the Effectiveness of Nursing Education

HCPro's Advisor to the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®, October 12, 2010

There is also the matter of making sure the education department chooses appropriate targets. The system in which this concept was implemented was set up so Guanci's department could access all necessary outcomes data. This came to bear when they were targeting areas for education. For example, a nursing director called and reported an increase in errors whenever nurses used a pain pump. The director then asked that the entire department be educated on pain pumps. 

Before making a decision, Guanci and her team drilled down to determine the cause of the errors. They discovered that there had indeed been a spike in pain pump errors. However, they were low in number (three), and each error had occurred on one particular nursing unit. Looking deeper, it turned out they occurred on the same shift, and finally they discovered the errors were the result of one nurse who needed additional training.

"I made the decision that we were not going to educate the entire hospital on this matter," says Guanci. "It wasn't a hospitalwide problem. We saw this nurse needed remediation." 

This is the department's mind-set. Always look to the data and hunt for cause and effect. "It's for planning education as well as reporting education," Guanci says. 

"This is huge," says Guanci. "It's something [education departments] have often never been asked to do before." 

At national seminars Guanci has spoken at, she has found the topic to be "a bugaboo"—people are asking the wrong questions. 

"I'll hear the question, 'How are you measuring your hours per patient day?' Education shouldn't be measured in patient day!" she says. 

Measurement gurus often try to slip education into measurement like any other measure of RN productivity. However, education is as much an art as it is a science in terms of measurability. 

"Sometimes you'll hear a department automatically jump to education—for example, let's have a class for customer service," says Guanci. "Educators will put together a customer service class. Then the original requester comes to you and says, 'But they still are engaging in the same problematic behavior!' It really is a matter of putting forward the mind-set of what do you want to see happen as a result of this education before you even plan the program."  

You have to define it before you can achieve it. 

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