244457 Expert and novice public health nurses problem solving abilities: Ensuring healthy communities

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 4:30 PM

Eileen Sarsfield, PhD, PHCNS, BC , School of Health Professions, Marymount University, Arlington, VA
Skill in defining problems, a component of analytic assessment, is a core competency of public health nursing practice (Quad Council, 2003). In his seminal work, Reitman (1965) described a continuum of types of problems: well-defined to ill-structured. In Reitman's schema, well-defined problems have identified variables, one solution, and rules that guide the development of a solution. In contrast, ill-structured problems have numerous undefined variables, divergent solutions, and few rules. The thesis of this presentation is that most problems in community/public health nursing practice fall on the ill-structured end of the continuum. Sarsfield, (2009) has described the differences between problem solving strategies used by expert and novice public health nurses in solving ill-structured problems found in public health practice. Namely, experts have extensive, highly consistent patterns that facilitated their solving of ill-structured problems, while novices used inconsistent, random problem solving methods to solve the same problems. This research suggests that teachers of community/public health nursing should help students identify the differences between well defined and ill-structured problems and teach them strategies specific to solving ill-structured problems. In the practice setting, employers should provide more guidance in solving ill-structured problems as novice nurses enter the complex world of community/public health nursing.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related nursing

Learning Objectives:
1. Define the difference between problems (well-defined and ill-structured) in health care settings. 2. Discuss the differences in expert and novice public health nurses' problem solving. 3. Describe implications for practice and academic settings.

Keywords: Public Health Nursing, Workforce

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the PI on the research about this topic and I teach community/public health nursing at an undergraduate level.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.