6 strategies for improving gap analysis
In all industries, there is sometimes a difference between the expected goal and actual outcomes, resulting in a “gap.” The gap refers to the space between “where we are” (the present state) and “where we want to be” (the target state). If an organization does not make the best use of current resources, or forgoes investment in new resources, it may perform below potential.
What is gap analysis?
Gap analysis involves the comparison of actual performance with potential or desired performance. This may also be referred to as a needs analysis, needs assessment, or need-gap analysis.
Another use is the identification of gaps between the optimal output or outcome, and the current allocation level. Study may reveal areas that can be improved, and gap analysis involves determining, documenting, and approving the difference between business requirements and current capabilities.
In addition, formal study of what a business is doing currently and where it wants to go in the future often would fall into the gap analysis category. It provides a foundation for measuring investment of time, money and human resources required to achieve a particular outcome.
Gap analysis naturally flows from benchmarking and from other assessments. Once the general expectations of performance are understood, it's possible to compare that expectation with the current level of performance.
To put it in simply, the step-by-step gap analysis involves:
- Identify the existing process.
- Identify the existing outcome.
- Identify the desired outcome.
- Identify and document the gap.
- Identify the process to achieve the desired outcome.
- Develop the methods to bridge the gap.
Analyzing your NPD Program
Professional development should not be random. Your learning program should be planned, systematic, and managed in such as way as to ensure nursing staff have the current knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, caring, and effective care.
Below is a suggested six-step process to get the most from your NPD program.
1) Identify learning needs. Some facilities have created self-assessment forms based on their competency profile. This is a systematic and thorough approach to review all of the competencies required to be proficient. Using the self-assessment forms will identify any areas that may need refreshing or upgrading. Quizzes and surveys are ideal for testing staff level of knowledge in various areas, and identifying those that need brushing up on. Another way to assess learning needs is to get feedback from supervisors. Learning needs should be written down and reviewed annually.
2) Prioritize learning needs. Once you have identified learning needs, the next step is to prioritize them from most important to less important. Is the learning need related to critical performance deficiencies that may affect patient safety? These should be given the highest priority. Does the learning need reflect a skill deficiency in the unit? If it does, then it should be given a higher priority.
3) Prepare a learning plan. The professional development plan should consist of a list of learning activities and tasks, each of which should contain the following information:
- Reference to the competency you want to improve
- Learning objective, or what is being taught
- Learning task, or how you plan to teach
- Target completion date.
The learning plan should be reviewed and updated every year.
4) Implement the learning plan. There are many different ways to execute NPD, including formal courses, seminars, workshops, conferences, and in-services.
5) Evaluate the learning plan. At the completion of each learning activity, take time to evaluate and document the effectiveness of the method. Evaluation factors to consider include:
- Quality - was the learning experience poor, fair, good or excellent? Why?
- Needs met - how well were learning needs met? Ideally, all learning needs were met. If not, additional learning activities are required.
- Value - was the learning activity worth the time, effort, and money invested? Are there other learning activities that provide better value?
Take time to make notes and a written evaluation of each learning activity. This is valuable data for you, your colleagues, and the entire organization.
6) Record all learning activities. The final step in the learning process is to record each learning activity as it is completed. Data that should be recorded include the name of the learning activity with competency reference, date the learning activity was completed, results, and any relevant comments for the record and future reference.
Following these six steps will help you keep your NPD on the right track and fill in any learning gaps along the way in the most effective and efficient manner.
For more information about nursing professional development, you can find a wealth of resources at the Association for Nursing Professional Development's website: www.anpd.org.