Last week my colleague Helen Bevan posted a tweet about "human spectrograms" and it reminded me of how we used this approach earlier this year while working with young people face-to-face (before Covid). 

Ellen McMahon, Practice Development Lead led the work in her then Health Education England fellow role for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. The ambition, set out by Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE was to inspire young people to consider nursing and midwifery as first choice career options.

Adapting to virtual

The approach used for the schools programme could easily be adapted to deliver in the virtual space too. Using annotation or polling enables everyone to participate and give an immediate visual of views along the spectrum. 

Below is an example of one we use in our Virtual Collaborate programme. It helps to stimulate conversation and peer support between participants as well as giving a guide on where to pitch the conversations, and how to frame eg breakout rooms to ensure everyone has a great experience. By running this same spectrogram at the end participants can see how far they have move in their capability to run virtual sessions.

If you are working with MS Teams, the best way I have found is to either use a whiteboard or to share an editable version of a pre-prepared google slide and then invite your participants to use the scribble function whilst sharing the slide on screen. It can get a bit messy if there are lots of participants but that is as much part of the fun of creating an opportunity for engagement and interaction!

In the post Helen tweeted there is a fabulous 'how to' video by Jeanne Rewa, Online Training Coordinator at Training for Change. It's packed with hints and tips for creating your own human spectrogram and a variety of ways to share and collaborate online.

Using the "Human Spectrogram" with young people

The importance of engaging with the future generations is clearly described in the NHS Long Term Plan which states that action is required to tackle the significant workforce issues with a goal remains in the NHS People Plan 20/21 for systems to "actively work alongside schools, colleges, universities and local communities to attract a more diverse range of people into health and care careers."

To better understand the impact of nurses and midwives having time and space to share the breadth and diversity of their roles we proposed using a dot voting spectrogram to measure the shift in attitude towards nursing and midwifery careers as a result of the session. A spectrogram is a validated technique to measure a range of responses to an issue and applying the "human" component is an approach that our team has experience of using during accelerated design events.

Here is one we have used where participants have to place a red dot (for Today) and a blue dot (for Future) of where they currently feel they sit on the polarities of Performance and Health:

At the beginning and end of each of the nursing and midwifery session to transforming perceptions, the young people were asked their personal view on whether they are thinking about becoming a nurse or midwife.

Using dots the young people's preferences can be added directly onto the template below or by offering different colours of paper participants can write the number that relates to their preference down and these can be plotted during the session or afterwards.

Shifting Perceptions

The following is data Ellen shared from a session using the "Human spectrogram".

The majority of students moved towards wanting to know more about the careers and the possibility they will apply for a first choice career in nursing or midwifery. This gives us an insight and helps to demonstrate that engaging directly with young people can positively influence their perceptions of nursing and midwifery.

Choosing a career option is a complex decision for young people, there are multiple influencers, for example peers, parents and career advisors. It is more likely to be a shift along a continuum rather than a leap as a result of one intervention.

The before and after approach is particularly helpful for life decisions as, for example with this work, it is possible but unlikely that students will leap from “no, I don’t want to be a nurse or a midwife” to “yes, I am going to apply to be a nurse or a midwife” in one single move. It is more likely that the session will ignite an interest so access to further high quality, credible information to continue that thinking is essential.

Engaging with young people should never be a one off opportunity and because we are now in a different time and space with social distancing, there is a bigger opportunity for this to be inherent in all of our work.

Using a "human spectrogram" is a great way to measure involvement, engagement and evaluate impact - and it's fun - whether you do the activity face-to-face or online!