Data can be used to make decisions and drive change, but only if it can be easily accessed, understood and manipulated. That’s why Public Sector Consultants (PSC) utilizes Tableau, an interactive software program that allows the firm’s clients to have the data they need in a way that is easy to visualize, use and share.

A year ago, Bright Ideas highlighted PSC’s skills in data visualization using Tableau, specifically for a Michigan Nonprofit Association report. Since then, PSC has continued to expand its expertise in Tableau so it can provide data to other clients and external audiences in more effective ways.

For example, the Michigan Health Council (MHC), in collaboration with the MHC Center for Nursing and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Nursing Policy, worked with PSC to develop, implement and analyze a survey of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

The survey was conducted along with the license renewal process, which nurses are required to undergo every two years. In order to create a comprehensive picture of the nursing workforce in Michigan, the survey asked questions about nurses’ education background, employment status, career continuation plans, main specialty areas and participation on interdisciplinary teams, along with basic demographic questions.

PSC used the survey results to prepare regional and statewide reports. But, in addition to traditional written documents with static graphs and charts, the data were also presented using an online interactive dashboard.

Jane Powers, vice president in PSC’s health division, is excited about this new way for her clients and their constituents to access the nursing survey results.

“With Tableau, we have given people access to information about Michigan’s nursing workforce in a format they can tailor to the questions they need to answer,” says Powers. “For example, if someone wants to find out what proportion of the nursing workforce holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing, they can find that answer not only for the entire state, but also for each region of the state. If they want to dig deeper to find out the settings in which new nurses with bachelor’s degrees are employed, they can quickly pull that information and maybe use it to advise nursing students. The data — and the multiple ways that Tableau allows them to see and use it — are right at their fingertips in easy-to-read charts and graphs.”

Since seeing is believing, Bright Ideas, with the client’s permission, has included the MHC’s interactive dashboard at the end of this article. By clicking on the categories across the top of the page, users can see, in a matter of seconds, how many RNs and LPNs are actively practicing in Michigan; how many hours active nurses are working; the distribution of nurses by age, gender and ethnicity; the number of years nurses have been employed in their profession; nurses’ main areas of practice; and much, much more. By clicking on the round buttons down the right side, users can manipulate the graphs for LPNs or RNs, regions of the state, gender, and so forth.

No poring over written reports to find relevant charts and tables. No plowing through basic spreadsheets to look for specific data. No making calculations to compare one region to another or to compare a region to the entire state. Instead, with Tableau, this information is accessible with just one or two clicks of a mouse.

Clients are as enthusiastic about data visualization as PSC’s staff.

“We are very excited to be able to access and share nursing data with stakeholders in a new and much more useful and interesting way,” says Craig Donahue, vice president and chief operating officer of the MHC. “This approach is a welcome shift away from static documents to customizable consumption of data. We have been very fortunate to capitalize on PSC’s Tableau expertise.”

PSC hopes to use Tableau with more clients over time, as demand grows for presenting data in more succinct, innovative and effective ways.