Windshield Survey in Nursing

Time to conduct a windshield survey?

How do you do it?

Note that just like nursing capstone projects, care plans, or reflective essays, windshield surveys are common nursing school tasks.

So, what is the purpose of a windshield survey?

What can you learn from a windshield survey example?

Simply put, windshield survey is a community health needs assessment tool.

What does community health needs assessment entail?

Community Health Needs Assessment

Needs assessment is a critical part of community health.

So, what is community health needs assessment?

It can be defined as:

A process used to determine the health and health care needs of a particular population or sub-group in an area.

Doing so requires the community health nurse to determine what health-related data is available.

For a better understanding of community needs, the nurse may engage in primary data collection.

Collection of primary data is done using tools such as:

  1. Windshield surveys
  2. Focus groups
  3. Interviews
  4. Surveys
  5. Public forums, and
  6. Participant observation  

For nursing students, conducting a windshield survey is an important undertaking.

It equips you with essential data collection and diagnosis skills.

What is A Windshield Survey?

As noted above, a windshield survey is an important community health assessment tool.

To use it effectively, you have to understand what it entails.

So, what is a windshield survey?

A windshield survey can be defined as:

A type of direct observation of community needs done while driving around and literally looking through the windshield.

Conducting a windshield survey requires the nurse to obtain a visual overview of the community while driving.

This type of survey is supposed to help the nurse know the community under study, ascertain health-related resources useful to members, and identify gaps in services.

As observed in different windshield survey nursing examples, the tool can be used to observe different characteristics of a community that impact health needs.

Such characteristics include:

  1. Housing
  2. Parks and recreation areas
  3. Pollution
  4. Transportation
  5. Grocery stores
  6. Industries
  7. Schools
  8. Health and social agencies
  9. Religious institutions

How to Conduct a Windshield Survey

Conducting a windshield survey encompasses numerous steps.

As reflected in nursing windshield survey examples, these steps determine the accuracy of the assessment.

They include:

1. Determining those to conduct the survey

The survey is as good as those carrying it out.

Different windshield survey nursing examples illustrate the importance of the people conducting the survey.

It is important to ensure that those conducting the nursing windshield survey are involved in the planning process.

Involving them in planning and developing the survey helps them understand what they should look for, and enhance their observations.

The best approach is to use teams to secure different perspectives in order to make the windshield survey more comprehensive.

Each team member should focus on a specific task, e.g. observing, recording.

2. Determining the questions to be answered by the survey

It is important to identify the questions you intend to answer.

Note that these questions determine the scope and structure of the survey.

The scope defines the structure of the windshield survey.

As reflected in windshield survey nursing examples, wider scopes require numerous questions.

You will have to ask the wider question first, then follow it up with secondary questions.

For example, if your question is “How does the community interact with resources?” numerous following secondary questions will be required.  

On the other hand, a narrow scope might require only one question.

For example, the question “Do most people have access to healthcare services?” has a narrower scope and can be adequate on its own.

3. Determining the areas to include in the windshield survey

A good nursing windshield survey must identify the areas to cover.

It is important to put your survey into context.

For example, you can cover a small rural town or neighborhood as a whole.

Differently, it is not possible to cover big cities entirely.

Instead, as reflected in any good windshield survey example, you should select a segment of the city.

You should however survey other parts of the city as well to get a sense of the city as a whole and contextualize the neighbourhood or population under study.

4. Determining when to conduct the survey

When you choose to conduct the windshield survey plays an important in securing the right data.

You have to consider:

  1. Time of the day
  2. Whether it is week day or weekend
  3. The season

All these will affect the survey in different ways.

For example, if your survey intends to evaluate utilization of public amenities like parks, observing the behavior on a weekend would be more suitable.

5. Training the people to conduct the windshield survey

Training those to conduct the survey is imperative.

Note that any good windshield survey example out there was conducted by people who knew what was expected of them and how to carry out their tasks.

Training should cover areas such as:

  1. Clarifying the questions, the purpose, and what they should look for
  2. Providing a checklist designed to ensure that all questions are addressed
  3. Educating them on the need to remain unobtrusive to avoid suspicion or hostility
  4. Reminding them the need to carry their identification
  5. Training them on how to take notes as they drive around
  6. Assigning roles if the windshield survey will be conducted by different teams
  7. Clarifying how to share and discuss findings as the survey unrolls
  8. Highlighting appropriate safety conduct

Guidelines for a Windshield Survey

To help ensure that your survey goes as planned, you could observe several guidelines.

These guidelines include:

  1. Use a map: You should use Google Maps or a physical map of the place you intend to study. This is to help you navigate the neighbourhood with ease.
  2. Work in a team: You should work in a team of at least 2 members- one to drive and the other to navigate and record observations.
  3. Drive at moderate speed: You should drive at a speed that would allow you to make detailed observations and react effectively to unexpected actions.  
  4.  Observe both major and minor streets: You should drive on different roads and parts of the neighborhood. This would give you a better overall picture of the area under study.
  5. Stop at regular intervals to compile and compare notes: It is important to pull over after sometime and make a comprehensive record of what you have observed.
  6. Be inconspicuous:  You should try to remain as discreet as possible. Be a nonparticipant observer.

Windshield Survey Template

What windshield survey template should you use?

What should a nursing windshield survey template include?

All these are issues to consider when conducting a windshield survey.

A good windshield survey template should include:

  1. A cover page
  2. An introduction (address, purpose of the windshield survey, and community boundaries)
  3. A completed windshield survey
  4. References

A Windshield Survey Template

Boundaries Are the boundaries geographical, political, or economic? Do neighborhoods have names? Are there sub-communities? How are these identified?  Notes (to make notes about the questions on the left)                
Housing and Zoning What is the age of the buildings?  Are the residences single family or multifamily dwellings? 
Signs of Decay Is the area well maintained or in disrepair? Is there garbage strewn? Are there trashed/abandoned cars, places for rodents or other wildlife to hide, vacant lots?   
Parks and Recreational Areas Are there play areas for children and adults? Are they safe and maintained? Is there a Community Center? Who uses them?   
Common Areas Where do people collect for social gatherings; where do they “hang out”? Are they for particular groups or are they open to all? Are there signs posted?   
Stores What stores (grocery, retail, drug, dry cleaning, etc.) are in the area? How do residents travel to them?   
Transportation How do most people get around the area? Is there public transportation? If so what kind and does it appear to be used? Who uses it? What is the condition of the streets, roads, highways?   
Communication Is there evidence of local and national newspapers to other media? Are there informational posters on streets, busses, billboards, etc.?   
Service Centers What services are available in the community – health care, social services, schools, employment offices etc.?   
People in the Community Who is in the area during the day?  What evidence is thereof particular “classes” of people – upper, middle, working, lower?   
Industries What are the major industries located in the area? What types of occupations are evident?   
Protective Services Where are fire and police stations located? Is there evidence of police and fire protection in the area? 
Ethnicity What is the predominant ethnic group? Are there residents from a variety of ethnic backgrounds or is the community mostly one group? Which one? Are there stores, restaurants, churches, schools, or languages that indicate a particular ethnic group(s)?   
Religion What churches and church-run schools are in the area (denomination)? How many are there of each denomination?   
Health and Morbidity Is there evidence of any health problems such as drug/alcohol abuse, communicable or chronic diseases, mental illness (etc.)? 
Politics Is there evidence of political activity?  Are there any signs that indicate a predominant political party (parties) or concern(s)? 

Essie Fitz is a registered nurse with over 15 years experience in pain management, hospice care, and ICU.
She enjoys mentoring new nurses and nursing students.
She loves nature, reading, writing, and good music.

Leave a comment