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October 2018 SEA-Q


A new anesthesia technique has shown significant clinical benefits in a landmark study. What is the BEST first step in implementing the technique at your institution?

  • A.) Conduct a needs assessment
  • B.) Invite an expert to give grand rounds
  • C.) Lead a journal club on the topic
  • D.) Develop a simulation session


A.): Conduct a needs assessment


The increasing volume of medical knowledge has been well documented, with new techniques, treatments, and strategies developing frequently. Faculty development in the form of lifelong learning and continuing medical education is crucial to optimal patient care. Yet the process of integrating new knowledge into faculty and institutional practice can be challenging. Implementation of new techniques is best achieved by employing a structured process that starts with a needs assessment.
A needs assessment involves assessing the educational needs of a group in a systematic way – in this case, institutional faculty and staff. The gap between current knowledge or practice and the desired or optimal state is evaluated. This may involve surveying for perceived deficits (known unknowns). It could involve observing clinical practice or analyzing outcomes to reveal unrecognized weaknesses (unknown unknowns). Subsequently, gaps are considered, prioritized, and a targeted curriculum is developed utilizing faculty, content experts, educators, and others. Other methods that can be used in a needs analysis can include evaluation of medical knowledge (via quizzes or self-assessment) or review of the medical literature. This process can also guide subsequent curriculum development by determining the optimal methods for knowledge dissemination (lecture, journal club, online modules, simulation, supervised practice, clinical exam, etc.). 
Structured needs assessment should precede any training method both to help specify what should be taught and how it should be taught.


  1. Cohen BA, Courtney MJ, Moist LM, Barton J. Needs Assessment: Towards a More Responsive Canadian Society of Nephrology Annual General Meeting (CSN AGM) Program. Can J Kidney Health Dis. 2016;3(3):121–11.
  2. Laxdal OE. Needs assessment in continuing medical education: a practical guide. J Med Educ. 1982;57:827–34.
  3. Klein D, Staples J, Pittman C, Stepanko C. Using electronic clinical practice audits as needs assessment to produce effective continuing medical education programming. Med Teach. 2012;34(2):151–4.

Author Information:

Brian F.S. Allen, MD
Assistant Professor
Director, Acute Pain Service
Director, Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine Fellowship
Department of Anesthesiology
Vanderbilt University Medical Center


The SEA is proud to be a member-driven organization, dedicated to the teaching and development of future anesthesiologists, and to the advancement of those who educate them.

Contact Info:

Society for Education in Anesthesia
6737 W. Washington St, Suite 4210 • Milwaukee, WI 53214 • (414) 389-8614