School nurses are busy. Busy and innovative, using their creativity to tackle local issues in novel ways. They see a problem, decide on a local strategy to tackle it, and have a go. Perhaps the intervention works, or perhaps it isn’t as successful as they’d hoped, so they might tweak it. Reflect on it, if possible, but as they are busy, they soon move on to the next priority.
There are two activities that are so important when implementing an intervention. One is something we probably all know we really should be doing. Evaluation. How do we know that our intervention has worked? Is it worth doing again (or keeping on doing it)? Do we need to adapt it so it works better? How can I demonstrate to my manager that it is a worthy use of my time?
The second activity, which perhaps is less obvious, is dissemination. So you have implemented your new activity, and evaluated it, but who do you tell? Your team leader and your service commissioners are important, to demonstrate and justify your valuable time is well spent on this innovation. But should you go further? How would someone from another part of the country learn from your experience and use your approach in their school? Dissemination – spread the word, by publishing it in the literature. This means that your experiences of developing a new approach to tackling an issue can add to the evidence base; your good ideas can be adopted, and lessons learned.
For some, these two additional stages of evaluation and dissemination sound unachievable for busy practitioners. To support school nurses, PHE has published a toolkit for evaluation of school nursing interventions related to behaviour change. Intended to be a usable field guide for practitioners, it includes 10 top tips for evaluation and dissemination. You can find the toolkit at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-behaviour-change-interventions-school-nurse-toolkit
Sean Mackay is Programme Manager for Primary Care at Liverpool John Moores University