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Conducting an Educational Needs Assessment Essay

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Updated: May 1st, 2022


Training of employees is a major requirement for every institution that wants to remain relevant in a fast-changing world. As such, organizations are turning to professional development courses as a useful strategy for equipping employees with key skills. This is, however, not possible without conducting an educational needs assessment. For this assignment, and educational needs assessment is conducted in a general intensive care unit, the GICU unit, which is located in a tertiary hospital. The assessment targets 25 registered nurses and aims at identifying their essential educational needs. This will enable the assessor to develop an educational course based on the nurses’ educational needs.


The educational needs assessment is aimed at identifying essential educational needs for registered nurses working at the GICU unit. The unit has an 18-bed capacity, and about 70 registered nurses. The assessment focuses on 25 registered nurses, preferably those who have worked in the hospital for less than two years. Thus, while the assessment helps to identify the prevailing educational needs, it also helps the assessor to define the course as well as identify essential instructional needs.

Data Collection Tool

Many healthcare organisations undertake a multi-professional development approach as a useful strategy for equipping healthcare professionals with multiple skills (Harden, 2004). As a result, healthcare professionals can increase participation in daily medical routines (Pirrie, 2003).

The acquisition of multiple skills requires an assessment of the essential educational needs (Gilligan et al. 2005). ‘Needs’ can be defined as the difference between existing knowledge and the desired skills. Needs assessment, therefore, involves the evaluation of the knowledge gap and what ought to be done to eliminate the gap (Tobey, 2007). Additionally, working with the target group in assessing educational needs is necessary as it helps identify actual educational needs. The needs assessment also enables the assessor to identify potential problems and challenges which are likely to be encountered.

There are many data collection tools useful for the needs assessment plan. However, as Tobey (2007) explains, a questionnaire is the most popular data collection tool. A questionnaire enables the assessor to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, which include the attitudes, opinions and perceptions of the target population. Additionally, questionnaires are quick and easy to develop. A questionnaire is relatively easy to prepare and can be modified to fit the context within which data was being collected (Rubin and Babbie, 2012). Furthermore, the questionnaire can be administered through nonconventional means such as email and social media.

This implies that a questionnaire can be completed at the convenience of the participant. The use of questionnaires enhances the legitimacy of data since confidentiality is maintained. Tobey (2007) adds that in selecting a data collection tool, time is a major determining factor. The needs assessment exercise takes four weeks. Thus, there is sufficient time to administer the questionnaire, data analysis and design of the course unit. Coupled with the assertions made herein, a questionnaire seems to be relevant for this exercise.

In developing a good questionnaire, the assessor ought to follow requirements as described by research experts. This begins by gathering data from the available literature. This is followed by developing a list of probable educational needs. The list enables the assessor to develop a questionnaire, which is to be used for the assessment exercise. According to Tamburini (2004), a questionnaire should be critically reviewed for credibility, reliability and relevance. Considering this, the assessor sought assistance from a senior colleague from the GICU unit. The senior colleague assisted in critical evaluation of the content, format, relevance, wording and usefulness of the questionnaire. Suggestions from the senior colleague were used to improve the quality of the questionnaire. Before pretesting the questionnaire, a final opinion was sought from a second colleague.

His suggestions were further used to improve the quality of the questionnaire. Additionally, as Presser (2004) asserts, the assessor ought to carry out a pilot test, which helps to determine the strengths and shortcomings of the questionnaire. Pretesting also helps in developing a properly worded and well-formatted questionnaire. Pre-testing of a questionnaire is best done with participants from within the target population. Thus, 11 registered nurses were selected from the GICU unit for the pre-testing exercise. The observations made were used to further improve the quality of the questionnaire.

As earlier stated, a questionnaire enables the assessor to collect various forms of data, which include personal feelings, opinions, perceptions, preferences and attitudes. This is only possible through Likert-type questions. As explained by Dawes (2008), Likert-type questions enable participants to select responses that demonstrate their perceptions, feelings and attitudes. Additionally, Likert-type questions are used to simultaneously collect qualitative and quantitative data (Kumar, 2005).

The assessment focuses on three major topics namely tracheotomy care, medication administration and aseptic technique. Participants are requested to rate the three topics in terms of importance. As such, the following Likert-scale seems relevant: 1 = ‘very essential’, 2 = ‘essential’, 3 = ‘less essential’. Additionally, the participants’ views on additional topics for further study are sought. Participants are also asked to indicate how important the suggested topics are. This helps the assessor to capture the participants’ feelings and attitudes regarding the suggested topics. Furthermore, it is important to identify the areas of concern within each of the three topics identified. Thus, three questions have been developed for each major topic (See Appendix 1).


The assessment is sanctioned by the hospital’s nursing department. It is aimed at supporting the institution’s mission to sustain high quality and experience based training for its employees. It targets 25 registered nurses working in the GICU unit. The assessment enables the assessor to develop a training program based on the most essential educational needs for nurses at the GICU unit. The nurses are expected to complete no less than ten hours of training per week to meet the requirements of the course successfully. The course covers at least three major topics and focuses on the most essential subtopics within each of the major ones. To incorporate the views and opinions of the nurses, the questionnaire contains open ended questions. Suggestions from the open-ended questions are taken into consideration while developing the course content.

Major course issues and expected challenges

As explained by Wick, Pollock, Jefferson and Flanagan (2006) it is impossible to construct a perfect and error free questionnaire. As such, the questionnaire used for the assessment exercise is likely to contain technical, format, semantic and other types of errors. In regards to this, some errors are expected within the data collected as well as within the process of data collection. For instance, an effective assessment criterion identifies both the learning and instructional needs (Trolley, 2006).

An error prone questionnaire is likely to focus on learning needs and ignore instructional needs. Given this, the assessor will attempt to identify both the learning and instructional needs for each of the major topics mentioned herein (Wick, Pollock, Jefferson and Flanagan 2006; Rothwell and Kazanas, 2011). Additionally, there are numerous disadvantages associated with questionnaires. For instance, Rubin and Babbie (2012) explain that questionnaires usually have a low response rate, especially when participants are required to complete the questionnaire in the absence of the assessor. However, participants have been informed about the importance of completing and returning a completed questionnaire to the assessor. Additionally, the assessor plans to collect completed copies of the questionnaire, in case participants are unable to send back completed copies. While this makes the process laborious and time-consuming, it nevertheless increases the response rate.

Data Analysis

Administration of the questionnaires

As explained by Rubin and Babbie (2012), questionnaires have a low response rate. As such, to increase the response rate, the assessor personally contacted the participants before issuing the questionnaires, to explain the importance of the survey. This was intended to gain the assurance of the participants on their total commitment to completing and returning the questionnaire. An envelope containing a copy of the questionnaire was left with each participant, each having details on how a completed copy of the questionnaire should be returned to the assessor. An offer was made by the assessor to collect the completed copy of the questionnaire. This significantly increased the response rate. Additionally, key terms such as ‘educational needs’ and ‘instructional needs’ were explained.

A total of 25 registered nurses were contacted and asked to complete the questionnaires. A total of 20 questionnaires were returned. This implies that the exercise achieved an 80% completion rate. According to Watkins, West-Meiers and Visser (2011), an 80% questionnaire completion rate is considered to be very successful. Analysis of all completed questionnaires indicates equal participation of male and female participants. Detailed statistics are described in Table 1 presented below.

Table 1: questionnaire response rate.

Number of participants contacted Male
Number of questionnaires issued 13 12 25
Number of questionnaires returned completed 11 9 20
Success rate (%) 84 75 80

As it has been explained earlier, the assessor preferred a 3-point Likert scale, where 3 is ‘very essential’, 2 is ‘essential’ and 1 is ‘less essential’. Using this scale, the most essential educational need scored three points, while the essential need scored two points. Less essential need scored one point. From the results, Medication administration scored highest, at 27 points, followed by Aseptic technique at 12 points while Tracheotomy care scored 5 points. The full results are detailed in Table 2 and Table 3 below.

Table 2: Results.

Topic Number of participants in favour of Points Scored Percentage score Essential Instructional need
Medication administration 9 27 45 Use of multimedia
Aseptic technique 6 12 30 Use of multimedia
Tracheotomy care 5 5 25 Cooperative learning

Table 3: results.

Topic Essential topic(s) for further study Justification
Medication administration Medication Administration Errors, MAEs MAEs are associated with negative health, professional and legal implications
Aseptic technique Asepsis Important in sterilising the clinical setting
Tracheotomy care Suctioning It is a very sensitive topic

Educational needs

The results above demonstrate the most urgent educational needs for new registered nurses in the GICU unit. Medication administration is the most essential educational need for nurses working at the GICU unit. Most of those polled suggested that Medication Administration Errors (MAEs) are a very essential area that requires further study, and justified this by asserting that there are legal, professional and health implications associated with MAEs, a fact acknowledged by McKenna (2004).To make the teaching/learning process meaningful, most of the participants suggested the incorporation of multimedia in the teaching process.

Aseptic technique is considered an essential topic for further study. Asepsis, which is the process of sterilising the clinical setting, emerged as an essential subtopic. Additionally, Asepsis reduces pathogenic infections, and therefore important elimination of pathogens. Tracheostomy care emerged as a less essential educational need. Nevertheless, those in support of it identified Suctioning as an important subtopic for further study, due to its sensitivity. As explained by Ackerman (2003), misapplication of knowledge is likely to increase the occurrence of other serious health complications. Cooperative learning was identified as the most essential instructional need with regards to Tracheotomy care. A general plan within which the course is to be delivered is described in Table 4 presented below.

Table 4: General program plan.

Week Area of coverage Instructional techniques Duration
1 Medication administration
PowerPoint slides, charts, videos 10 hours
2 Medication administration
PowerPoint slides, charts, videos 3 hours
Aseptic technique
PowerPoint slides, charts, videos 7 hours
3 Tracheostomy care (Suctioning ) Focus group discussion, PowerPoint slides, charts, videos 7 hours
Review of the course 3 hours
4 Assessment and evaluation 10 hours


The most essential educational need for new registered nurses at the GICU unit is Medication administration. As such, it forms a major part of the course. Tracheostomy care and Aseptic technique also form a significant part of the training program. Nevertheless, to make the course meaningful, appropriate instructional methods have been used, based on participants’ preferences. The assessor hopes that training registered nurses on the three major topics not only enhances their professionalism but also equips them with the necessary knowledge that enables them to increase their participation in a daily nursing routine.

Reference List

Ackerman, M. (2003). The effect of saline lavage prior to suctioning. American Journal of Critical Care, 2(3), 23.

Dawes, J. (2008). Do data characteristics change according to the number of scale points used? An experiment using 3-point, 5-point and 7-point and 10-point scales. International Journal of Market Research, 50(1), 61.

Gilligan, P. et al. (2005). To lead or not to lead? Prospective controlled study of emergency nurses’ provision of advanced life support team leadership. Emergency Medical Journal, 22(6), 28–632. Web.

Harden, R. (2004). Effective multiprofessional education: A three-dimensional perspective. Medical Technologies, 20(40), 2–8.

Kumar, R. (2005). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. London: Sage.

McKenna, H. (2004). Barriers to evidence-based practice in primary care. Journal of Advanced Nursing 45(2),178–9.

Pirrie, A. (2003). AMEE Guide No. 12: Multiprofessional education, Part 2— promoting cohesive practice in health care. Medical Technologies, 20(4), 9–15.

Presser, E. (2004). Methods for testing and evaluating survey questionnaires. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Rothwell, J. and Kazanas, H. (2011). Mastering the instructional design process: a systematic approach. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Rubin, A. and Babbie, E. (2012). Brooks/Cole empowerment series: Essential research methods for social work. Ontario: Cengage Learning.

Tamburini, C. (2004), Needs assessment for cancer patients and their families. Biomedical Journal, 8(12),4.

Tobey, D. (2007). Data collection for needs assessment. Baltimore, Maryland: ASTD Press.

Trolley, E. (2006). Lies about learning. Baltimore, Maryland: ASTD.

Watkins, R., West-Meiers, M. and Visser, Y. (2011). A guide to assessing needs: Essential tools for collecting data. London: Sage.

Wick, C., Pollock, R., Jefferson, A., Flanagan, R., (2006). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning: How to turn training and development into business results. San Francisco: Pfeiffe.


Appendix 1: Questionnaire

Thank You for agreeing to particulate in the education needs assessment exercise. The information herein is treated in strict confidentiality, and is only used for the purposes of developing a training program.

Part one

Organise the following topics from the least essential to the most essential

    1. Tracheotomy care
    1. Aseptic technique
    1. Medication administration

Suggest any other topic(s) that reflect your urgent educational needs. State whether the topic(s) are less essential, essential or very essential

Topic(s) Less essential Essential Very essential

Part two

Answer the questions that follow

Tracheotomy care

  1. Which topic/subtopic within Tracheotomy care reflects your most essential educational need?
  2. What are the major instructional needs with regards to Tracheotomy Care?
  3. Why do you think Tracheotomy care requires further study?

Medication administration

  1. Which topic/subtopic within Medication administration reflects your most essential educational need?
  2. What are the major instructional needs with regards to Medication administration?
  3. Why do you think Medication administration requires further study?

Aseptic technique

  1. Which topic/subtopic within Aseptic technique reflects your most essential educational need?
  2. What are the major instructional needs with regards to Aseptic technique?
  3. Why do you think Aseptic technique requires further study?
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