Producing the Development Needs Analysis 2019 (view here) was a massive undertaking. I’m not going to go through a chronological retelling of what happened rather examine and reflect on themes that I felt were pertinent.
Project Processes and Group Dynamics
The ‘project owners for this were the Knowledge for Healthcare CPD group (unsurprisingly), so I reported everything back in to that group. It was that group which originally spoke to me about reproducing the original survey back in mid-2018, and the rest of the original 2017 DNA Survey group – Abi, Katy, Lisa, Uma and Sarah all said they would happily return. In the previous iteration of the survey in 2017, the leadership had been much more balanced, shared across the development group.
Although I had originally intended for this to be the case again, it soon became clear that as the desired outcome was an evolution on the work that had already been done, and with a lot of the upgrades being about the survey itself, that I was going to be leading this project myself, so the rest of the group shifted roles becoming:
- an advisory panel in terms of creation (and making sure I didn’t go and make daft design decisions)
- main source of promotion/dissemination
- support with thematic analysis
I felt this approach aligned with the KFH CPD Group structures was very effect as it gave the creation of the DNA survey a hierarchy to complement its process of design and timescales (which although plentiful, I manage to miss most!). It was a successful approach to a situation where there was no direct management or influence in the system. There was much less ‘design by committee’ this time around, and the reporting structure enabled much less outside interference – it needing to go through proper channels and approval structures, removed a lot of back-seat driving and “can we just’s” that often derail projects. An example of this was a request to change how data was reporting (splitting bands 5 and 6). Whilst an increase in work, it was done in such a manner that I was able to allow for it, and it didn’t disrupt the flow.
I would heavily advocate for a similar process when I am next involved in something like this – it enabled people to get on with tasks whilst giving stakeholders opportunities to challenge and contribute.
The biggest challenge was the change in survey software tool – moving from SurveyMonkey to Online Surveys. Although I had never even heard of this tool before, I was quite confident in being able to produce something that met our needs, having use many different survey tools before – and also I didn’t have a choice in what I had to use…so just needed to get on with it!
Although a pain in terms of design, the biggest impact came in responses. a drop in in development choices – aka the development choices people made – had a reduction of almost 59% – 3879 choices made in 2017, to only 1632 in 2019.
The reduction in overall responses – approximately 100 to the survey will not have helped, but I believe this was a failure in design – the way the question had been presented in 2017 was not available in the new survey tool, and I couldn’t think of a way that was neither convoluted or cumbersome*.For the next development survey, a better way to capture this needs to be worked through (and I already have ideas).
There was also an issue around the reporting side on the new survey which meant the creation of a basic report went from about an hour to nearly three. However, speaking to the CPD group we came to a less pretty, more pragmatic solution that reduced that back to less than an hour and still met everyone’s needs.
On the plus side, I can add another survey tool to the list of ones I can use, and I am much better on Excel than I was 6 months ago!
Stepping back into the land of Library
When I was first asked to do this –I was working for PHE on secondment, and the expectation was that I would be staying there…but that didn’t happen. So in my current role which is not as a Librarian and very much not a NHS Librarian, meant I needed to most of this in my own time at evenings and weekends. Which is my excuse for constantly missing the deadlines I set and I’m sticking to it!
I don’t really have a ‘library’ job anymore – I use my key library skills skills regularly in different ways, and I am still called upon to do searches and reviews to support the organisation but its just one of many aspects of my role which is a bit of a hybrid including business management, public health specialist, knowledge and information management and whatever else I am asked to do as one of life’s doers. Most of library interactions are legacy – and as they wind down, they are not replaced with new library activities or CPD, but more public health or local government focused. A very meta example of this – is the choices I made on this survey – I chose nothing technical, all my developmental areas are ‘softer’ skills – communication, leadership – as this is what my role needs.
From a personal perspective it was nice to be working on a national level once again. As an information specialist, I felt at home on a national level – my skill set and expertise were appreciated more than they had been locally for a very long time, and coming back to this work – knowing that this piece of work I produced will have an impact on shaping every health library persons development over the next couple of years – and as such every person they support within their roles make me very proud.
I need to think deeply about what how I want to progress my career – I’m already established and leader within libraries – I could do many different roles within health (or more) libraries but its been 7 years since I have managed a library service, and whilst previous national opportunities have passed there are always others – but they may require sacrifices. However, I am venturing down a different path and enjoy the challenge of learning wide range of skills, acquiring new knowledge and developing a new expertise.
Demonstrating Value and Impact
A big regret of the 2017 work was that we just did it…and then did nothing else – no journal articles, no conference presentations, not even a piece in Information Professional – and they’ll let anything go in there. We just got on with everything else.
This piece of work – *my* piece of work is going to have an indirect impact on the wider NHS workforce. If, for example a Literature Searching course is commissioned based on the analysis I presented – and someone who attended that training produces a literature search that is then supports service change which improves patient outcomes, how much impact have I had?
Directly? Fuck all.
But indirectly it may have had some, and more pertinently it shows the value of undertaking such as survey. As mentioned elsewhere in this piece, I know I produce good work, but how much does that matter if I don’t know what effect it has? So to combat this, I am going to measure the impact of the survey on the CPD decision makers. I am also going to use the regularly gathered impact analysis from the courses undertaken to measure the secondary impact on the wider NHS Library and Knowledge workforce. By doing this, I shall be able to track the impact of the survey from course commissioning to course impact highlighting the value of this work to Health Education England.
*We went with cumbersome.