Performing a SWOT analysis

Nurse Leader Insider, September 18, 2019

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One of the most important, although sometimes time-consuming, activities that are frequently completed in planning sessions is the Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (SWOT) analysis. This analysis can be useful in many problem-solving situations that you may face. The SWOT exercise may seem very time-consuming; however, this planning will again help direct where resources are needed and to what extend the resources should be allocated.

As a nurse leader, sometimes you may be part of the group being asked to identify SWOT. This selection usually occurs if your director or vice president is conducting the session and you are a group member. In working with just your area of responsibility, you might be the leader guiding your direct reports through this exercise. In both cases it is important to understand the SWOT analysis to gain the full benefit.

Strengths are what the organization, division, or department identifies that they do well and have success in above the competition. When identifying strengths for your organization ask yourself: "What would the community say that we are best at providing?" The answer to this question will help you get started with your list. Maybe it's your strong orthopedic program and the total joint camp that you've developed. Maybe it's the great oncology doctors that you've been able to recruit. This list should include both internal and external views. Here are some other examples of possible strengths:

  • Strong name recognition of the organization
  • Stable workforce
  • Strong succession planning
  • New facilities
  • Private patient rooms
  • Strong financial position
  • High-quality care delivered

Weaknesses, of course, will be just the opposite. The weakness assessment should openly and honestly describe what the organization currently does not do well or is seen as a weakness to achieving the desired goals for the organization. Weaknesses are identified by asking the question: "What currently causes us trouble in providing the exceptional patient experience that we strive to provide?"

Examples of weaknesses in an organization might be:

  • Limited orthopedic surgeon coverage
  • Semi-private rooms when the competition has private rooms
  • Shortage of RN staff available
  • Loss of the major employer in town
  • High number of uninsured patients

Opportunities will be more easily seen after assessing the strengths and weaknesses. The opportunities of the organization will focus on how to optimize the strengths and decrease the weaknesses of the organization. An additional question to ask the group to assist in identifying opportunities is: "What would we like to do better?" or "What will we have to do better in the future to meet our mission?" This is where it starts to get fun. This is where the group should start dreaming about how much better the organization can be. What's the stretch to get us to be the best?

Last but not least is the assessment of the threats that exist for the organization. These threats can and should include both internal and external threats. Threats are things that might happen and are likely to happen if intervention is not taken to stop them or certainly decrease the chances of them happening.

Remember, responses to each strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat include major considerations of human capital, customer bases, quality measures, and financial strengths, just to name a few.

Source: Book excerpt adapted from The Nurse Leader's Guide to Business Skills: Strategies for Optimizing Financial Performance by Pamela Hunt, BS, MSN, RN, and Deborah Laughon, RN, BSN, MS, DBA, CCRN

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