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Needs Assessment

A needs assessment project was conducted in April 2010 to gather feedback from 30 nurses throughout the province, in order for the Institute to develop programs that will meet the needs of oncology nurses. Earlier focus group work has revealed that both individual learning styles and technological confidence are important factors in eLearning uptake, and that there is diverse variation in the learning styles as well as comfort level with technology and even access to basic equipment (i.e. computers, Internet access). These are important issues to consider as the Institute develops and implements programming in order to achieve its goals and objectives.

The objective of the needs assessment study was to:

  • Elicit the oncology nurses’ perceived needs of ongoing educational support in their career development;
  • Explore generational differences in modes of learning, familiarity with information technology; and specific knowledge gaps;
  • Examine the geographic barriers that nurses face across the province and its impact on the need for various models of educational support;
  • Test face validity of various forms of technologies in eLearning and their uptake rate by nurses from different generations, diverse locations and unique health care settings.

The needs assessment used an innovative Photo Journal method. Nurses were provided with a disposable camera to take pictures associated with how they conceptualize or perceive the meaning of being an oncology nurse, perceived excellence in oncology nursing, facilitators and barriers that support or hinder oncology practice, their educational needs, their perceived ideal workplace and their view on the future of oncology nursing. Nurses then wrote a narrative concerning each photo.

During the focus group, nurses came to Toronto to share their photo journals, and to try out different learning stations which include: didactic teaching (lecture), videoconference teaching, eLearning in a static format and eLearning in avatar, all conducted in a well-constructed learning laboratory, specifically designed for the study.

Purposeful sampling was used to recruit 32 oncology nurses across Ontario, stratified evenly by age (<29, 30-45, 45+) and workplace setting (teaching hospital, community hospital and community care).  The stratification is to allow sufficient sample size for emerging themes for each subgroup.

Participants had an average of 7.9 years of oncology experiences (range 0 to 25 years).  An assessment of exposure to eLearning technologies was performed and different levels of experience and sophistication were reported.  23% of contributors had never participated in an online eLearning course. Over 80% of the group reported some experience with online eLearning courses, many of which incorporated online quizzes and and/or games. The survey asked responders to identify barriers or challenges they would anticipate with eLearning. The majority stated that they had limited access to computers or an internet connection, and a lack of technology skills. Approximately half of participants reported they would take an online eLearning course in the future as it could effectively meet their educational needs.

Qualitative research software NVivo 8 is being used to identify themes that impact oncology nursing practice and to inform the future of de Souza curriculum development. The needs assessment study was part of a round table presentation on the International Cancer Nursing Conference in 2010.