Minimum Data Set (MDS)
The Health Workforce Minimum Data Set (MDS) provides basic, minimum, consistent guidelines for fundamental health workforce survey questions. The MDS questions focus on characteristics in three key areas: demographics, education, and practice.
FAQs About Minimum Data Set (MDS)
Do you have examples of questions that we could ask?
Yes. The National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, and the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) have developed Minimum Data Set questions for their professions. Additionally, HRSA has developed MDS standards, and the WWAMI Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Washington has archived a questionnaire library containing data collection instruments volunteered by several states. The HWTAC is also including selected data collection instruments in the State Health Workforce Data Collection Inventory.
How easy is it to get licensure boards to add or change questions?
This will vary from state to state. It is important to remain cognizant of a) the financial cost to the board to change online renewal questions; b) the time that it takes respondents to complete their licensure renewal form; and c) the need for comparability across time. Only request changes or additions when absolutely necessary.
Some states mandate the collection of data through legislation, which affects how easy it is to add or change questions. For example, Florida’s data collection is legislated, and any question must go through a lengthy public comment period to be added or changed. This process has the potential to subject questions to bias from the public and special interest groups.
Do I have to ask questions as recommended by the Minimum Data Set (MDS) or can I ask for other information?
The Minimum Data Set (MDS) provides guidelines for collecting basic, minimum, and consistent data on health professionals. These guidelines are not requirements, but they do provide suggestions so that data are collected in a way that is useful for research purposes and comparable across professions and states. Some states ask questions that go beyond the MDS so they can better understand their workforce and answer questions from their policymakers.
The following resources provide information on basic MDS guidelines and going beyond the MDS to ask additional questions, plus examples of data collection instruments from various states.
- Minimum Data Sets Created by National Boards, Councils, and Associations
- The Health Workforce Minimum Data Set (MDS): What You Need to Know (2016)
- Beyond the Minimum Data Set (MDS): What Additional Data Do States Collect on Health Workforce Supply? (2016)
- State Health Workforce Data Collection Inventory (look for states with “Yes” under “Surveys Available”)
What states have implemented the MDS?
Many states are already collecting health workforce data, with a customized MDS in place to collect any additional data they need for health workforce planning. Some examples of states that are already collecting an MDS include North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Indiana, and Minnesota.
For more information on which states are collecting data, visit our State Health Workforce Data Collection Inventory, or contact HWTAC.
What is the MDS?
The Minimum Data Set, or MDS, provides basic, consistent guidelines for fundamental health workforce questionnaires. These questions can be used by anyone who wants to collect data on the supply of health workers, whether through the licensure process or surveys, and can be adapted for additional professions. MDS questions focus on essential demographic, education, and practice characteristics.
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