Outlining job descriptions of the health professions for preventive care: an exploratory study at the Local Health Authority of Milan, Italy.

Annali di igiene : medicina preventiva e di comunita

PubMedID: 25001124

Dadda F, Zappi W, Zannini L. Outlining job descriptions of the health professions for preventive care: an exploratory study at the Local Health Authority of Milan, Italy. Ann Ig. 2014;26(4):344-54.
Job descriptions are detailed descriptions of particular job positions; they are utilized to select and evaluate the personnel, but also to assess the professionals' educational needs; in fact, job descriptions identify which tasks the employee is expected to perform and his/her required characteristics. The aim of this study was to explore suitable methodologies to analyze the job positions in the health professional field, to outline specific job descriptions. More specifically, we intended to study how to outline the job descriptions of the health professions for preventive care (Public Health Nurses, PHN, and Occupational and Environmental Health Officers, OEHO ) employed at the Local Health Authority (LHA) of Milan, in order to contribute to their educational needs assessment.

Data were collected in 2012 from a purposive sample of 29 professionals belonging to the population under study (PHN and OEHO employed at the LHA of Milan), and from other 7 healthcare professionals working in the staff (totally 36 participants), through two qualitative methods: focus groups and participant field observations. We used two methods of data gathering to attain triangulation, in order to increase the validity of the results. A thematic analysis was performed by two researchers on focus groups transcriptions and filed notes.

A list of 26 activities performed by participants in different contexts of the LHA emerged in the focus groups; ten of those activities were studied in the field through participant observations, which confirmed what informants said in the focus groups. Concerning the methodology for data gathering to outline job descriptions, participants appreciated focus groups, since they gave them the opportunity to reflect on the activities performed at the LHA, highlighting critical aspects of those activities and therefore their educational needs. Participant field observations, conducted by a researcher belonging to the health professions for preventive care, did not encounter any resistance, but were less appreciated by participants than focus groups. From the researcher's point of view, the field observations were less efficient than focus groups.

Focus groups have proven to be a valid tool to outline job descriptions of health professions for preventive care, since they are perceived not only as a method for data gathering, but also as a means to identify their educational needs. When triangulated with field observations, data gathered through focus groups enhanced their validity, but participant observations proved to be scarcely efficient. Further research is needed on instruments that allow data gathering on job descriptions to be triangulated with focusgroups, such as questionnaires.