|Learning Objective #1: Identify components of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applicable to policy evaluation studies|
|Learning Objective #2: Articulate GIS data requirements|
Increasingly, GIS are being utilized by nursing researchers on a variety of topics including: access to care; social networks and health determinants; and community health assessments. Newer applications of GIS to nursing research questions have included facility investigations of nosocomial infections and policy evaluation. A recent GIS policy evaluation study evaluated the policy effectiveness of Missouri's nurse recruitment and retention policy for underserved areas between 1991 and 2001. Following IRB approval, group differences (policy targeted versus non-targeted counties) were explored using GIS data visualization, spatial statistics and classic statistics. The results suggest that current policy definitions of underserved areas may not be effective in defining areas of nursing shortages and the existing policy implementation may not be achieving the stated goals.
While GIS hold great promise as tools for nursing research, it is critical to remember that GIS results are highly dependent on the quality of the input data. The issue of scale or data granularity is important in GIS data sets. Researchers must be cognizant of the potential for ecological fallacy and the potential artificial effects of political boundaries.