• learning needs;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • scale validation;
  • specialist practice

Aim.  To develop and validate a learning needs assessment scale.

Background.  Learning needs analysis is a central component of continuing professional development but there is a lack of psychometrically developed learning needs assessment tools. Self-assessment questionnaires are emerging as a key method. The development of a learning needs analysis scale for multiple sclerosis specialist nurses is described.

Design.  A psychometric approach comprising the three phases of the development and testing of the scale are outlined.

Method.  Phase 1: Item identification using a literature review; postal survey of stakeholders (n = 320), 20 nurse interviews; four nurse focus groups; five telephone interviews with people with MS. Phase 2: Refinement of draft scale and establishing face and content validity testing using an expert panel. Phase 3: Testing of draft scale using data from a postal survey (n = 47 MS specialist nurses) to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of scale, internal consistency and construct validity. Test–retest reliability was assessed using data from 17 MS specialist nurse respondents to calculate intra-class correlation coefficients.

Results.  The data from the different study phases informed scale refinement. The validity and reliability of the scale was confirmed through testing.

Conclusion.  The study provides an example of how a robust learning needs assessment scale may be developed for a specialist area of nursing practice to be used in conjunction with more subjective approaches.

Relevance to clinical practice.  High quality nursing care depends upon a competent nursing workforce that engages in continuing professional development. This study provides an example of a psychometrically developed learning needs assessment scale to inform continuing professional development needs of nurses working in a specialist area of practice.