Chapter 3. Determining Your Data Collection Methods

Survey User's Guide: Nursing Home Survey on Patient Safety Culture

Once you determine your available resources, project scope, and timeline and establish a project team, you need to choose your data collection methods. The methods you choose for distributing and returning surveys will affect how your staff view the confidentiality of their responses. Their views on confidentiality will influence your overall survey response rate. 

As noted earlier, we recommend using a paper-based mode of data collection to achieve maximum response rates among all nursing home staff. The procedures outlined in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 assume a paper-based approach, but some of the topics in these chapters also apply to Web-based surveys. We provide more specific information about Web-based survey data collection in Appendix B.

Decide How Surveys Will Be Distributed and Returned

When deciding how your paper surveys will be distributed and returned, consider any previous experience your nursing home has had with employee surveys. Have previous nursing home surveys been distributed at work? Were surveys returned to a location within the nursing home, to the nursing home system headquarters, or to an outside vendor? What were employee survey response rates? If possible, use methods that previously were successful in your nursing home.

Distributing Surveys

We recommend that a designated point of contact (POC) distribute the surveys directly to staff in the nursing home. To promote high participation, you can distribute the surveys at staff meetings where refreshments can be served. You may need to make a concerted effort to distribute the surveys to any physicians and staff members who do not work regular hours in the nursing home and to staff working evenings and night shifts. However the surveys are distributed, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Provide explicit instructions for completing the survey.
  • Inform staff that completing the survey is voluntary.
  • Assure staff that their responses will be kept confidential. Emphasize that reports of findings will include only summary data.
  • Caution staff (especially if they are completing the survey during a meeting) not to discuss the survey with other staff while answering the survey.
  • Permit staff to complete the survey during work time to emphasize that nursing home executives and managers support the data collection effort.

Returning Surveys

If your budget is limited, completed surveys can be returned to a designated POC in the nursing home or to drop boxes in the nursing home. These methods of returning surveys, however, may raise staff concerns about the confidentiality of their responses. Rely on your past experience with these methods in your nursing home when making decisions about how surveys should be returned.

If your nursing home has had limited experience administering employee surveys or you think there are confidentiality concerns, it is best to have staff mail their completed surveys directly to an outside vendor or to an address outside the nursing home. Be sure to include postage-paid return envelopes with the survey. 

If you do not use a vendor and are part of a larger health care system sponsoring the survey, consider having the surveys returned to a system headquarters address to reassure staff that no one at their nursing home will see the completed surveys. Remember, if surveys are returned through the mail, you will need to account for return postage in your budget.

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Establish a Point of Contact

Single Nursing Home

You will want to appoint someone from the nursing home project team to serve as a POC for the survey (e.g., a director of nursing or other administrator). A POC can increase the visibility of the survey by showing support for the effort and by answering questions about the survey. We recommend including the POC's name, job title, and contact information (phone number, E-mail address, office number) in the survey cover letter, in any reminder notices that are distributed, and in survey promotion flyers posted in the nursing home.

The nursing home POC has several duties, including:

  • Promoting the survey.
  • Answering questions about survey items, instructions, or processes.
  • Responding to staff comments and concerns.
  • Helping to coordinate survey distribution and receipt of completed surveys.
  • Communicating with outside vendors and other POCs, as necessary.

Multiple Nursing Homes Within Your Health Care System

If you are administering the survey in multiple nursing homes in your system, you may want to designate a system-level POC in addition to a POC in each nursing home participating in the survey. The contact information for this system-level POC should also be included in the survey cover letter and in any reminder notices distributed to staff.

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Current as of September 2008
Internet Citation: Chapter 3. Determining Your Data Collection Methods: Survey User's Guide: Nursing Home Survey on Patient Safety Culture. September 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/patientsafetyculture/nursing-home/nhguide/nhguide3.html