NEWS - Understanding the dynamics of the nursing workforce: the potential of routinely collected data

The Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) hosted an online seminar on Friday 19 March, to bring together academics, data specialists and policy leaders to discuss the potential of data relating to nurse registrants to support informed policy and decision making - as well as looking at further opportunities and prioritising future research in this area.

Virtual seminar

The event was chaired by Dr Iain Atherton, SCADR’s lead for health and social care data, who broadly set out how data collected as part of administrative processes could be used to create longitudinal datasets that enable analysis of events over time. 

Pilot Study and future opportunities

As an introduction, Dr Atherton outlined the opportunity created by funding made available by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to take forward an initial pilot study that could use Revalidation Data, the information provided every three years by nurses to maintain their place on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register. This would build on already substantial work that has put in place key safeguards and infrastructure, that are enabling academics to use administrative data legally and ethically, to take forward a range of policy relevant studies as part of ADR UK. 

Dr Nadine Dougall from Edinburgh Napier University outlined the importance of the longer-term possibilities and discussed her research that used linked administrative data to better understand the role of occupation and suicide in Scotland. She suggested possibilities that may be enabled by linking nurses’ data to death registration data.

The next speaker at the meeting was Jan Savinc, a SCADR research fellow also based at Edinburgh Napier University, who discussed the development of synthetic data that could enable a protocol to be written. This protocol would set out the questions, data and analysis (including the coding) that would then be applied to real world data. Protocols are an important element of robust data analysis and the use of synthetic data would allow a timely approach that can enable more policy relevant outputs.

Professor Jane Ball, University of Southampton, then acted as respondent to the three papers. Amongst the important points made, she suggested that the presentations highlighted the potential of data to support policy and the opportunities created by the variation in data availability in each of the UK’s constituent countries. She also discussed how key questions might be narrowed down to focus on needs and gaps, data ambitions for this work, and who might be involved.

The meeting was then opened out for discussion. Points made underlined the potential of this work and a clear desire to see data used to support the work of nurses across the UK. A range of areas were indicated to which there is currently little robust evidence but that might be addressed using data that already exists.

Following the seminar, Dr Atherton felt that the event had been very well received and commented: 

today’s seminar demonstrated the potential of routinely collected data to help us answer key questions for the nursing profession, to the benefit of nurses and so also their patients. We have an amazing opportunity over the coming months through our ADR UK funding, and I am personally very excited to work with our colleagues in governing bodies, government, and fellow academics to realise opportunities for analysis that can support informed decision making.

What next?

SCADR will be taking forward those discussions with key stakeholders from the meeting, as well as others who were unable to attend, to realise this chance to utilise data in support of the practitioners who make up the nursing profession and to better enable the work that they do.


This article was published on 22 Mar 2021

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