How to write a Windshield Survey Nursing Paper

Written by Brandon L.
February 22, 202420 min read

Conducting windshield surveys will be a frequent duty as a student nurse and a practicing healthcare professional. As you study public health, nursing, social work, or sociology, prepare to do community assessment, which is a systematic process.

You will be required to do a walkthrough survey to examine the factors that impact the health of a population. As you conduct the windshield survey, you get to identify the community's strengths, capacities and gaps/risks. Such an environmental scan helps you get essential insights into the population to develop health promotion plans, community diagnoses, and healthcare plans.

While it is an exciting assignment, we often get many students who do not understand how to go about it.

In this guide, we take you through conducting a windshield survey, how to use the windshield survey template, tips, and insights for success, and how to write a report following a successful windshield survey.

What is a Windshield Survey?

A Windshield survey, also called a walking survey, refers to a community health assessment process that entails motorized, walk-around, and research equivalent of a head-to-toe assessment.

As McCarthy, S. defines it; it is an informal survey conducted by healthcare professionals within a community or a geographic location they are researching to observe, discover, and note different aspects of the community. The collected data provides insights, background, and context for working in the community or conducting a community assessment.

It entails observing a community with new eyes or from a community health perspective to explore, discover, and notice functions, systems, and structures. Nursing, medical sciences, and public health students conduct windshield walking surveys as part of their studies and write a windshield survey report that is marked and assessed.

You can conduct a windshield survey from a car, provided you have an overview of the community. If you prefer walking, you can also do it as you walk around your identified location. Such surveys might help diagnose community health issues and develop community nursing care plans. 

The Purpose of Windshield Surveys

There are many reasons to conduct a community assessment windshield survey.

A windshield survey can be used as a needs assessment survey. For instance, you can conduct a geriatric windshield survey to determine if the needs of the older adults in a community are being addressed. You will gather data, analyze it, and write a report.

Windshield surveys help nurses and other healthcare practitioners to knowledgeably plan services for individuals, families, and the wider community. To do that effectively, one has to know the resources specific to the community where a client resides so they can identify the health-related resources and understand the gaps in services.

The survey helps identify the conditions, factors, or trends within a community that might affect the health and well-being of the population. When doing the survey, one uses a windshield survey that facilitates community assessment, which enables them to collect data that is analyzed and used to write a windshield survey report.

The survey helps ensure that any actions taken conclusively address the community health and well-being of different focus populations. It can help request grants or funding to address issues affecting a specific community.

Windshield Survey Tool/Template

As you conduct your walking/windshield survey, you can use the provided community assessment windshield survey template. You can use the one outlined below if one is not given.

Component of the Survey

Writing Area for the Component/Element


Are the boundaries geographical, political, or economic?

Do neighborhoods have names?

Are there sub-communities?

How are these identified?

Notes (to make notes about the questions on the left)                

Housing and Zoning

What is the age of the buildings? Are the residences single-family or multifamily dwellings? What is the age and condition of housing in the neighborhoods you are surveying? Are houses and apartment buildings kept up, or do they run down and need repair? Are yards neat or overgrown? Are other buildings mostly or entirely occupied? Do public and commercial buildings seem accessible to people with disabilities: ramped, street-level entries, etc.? What about housing for the elderly (SNF, ALF, Residential homes, Foster homes)?

Signs of Decay

Is the area well-maintained or in disrepair? Is there garbage strewn? Are there trashed/abandoned cars, places for rodents or other wildlife to hide, and vacant lots?

Parks and Recreational Areas

Are there play areas for children and adults? Are they safe and maintained? Is there a Community Center? Who uses them? Are there public spaces where people can gather? Are they well kept up? Do they have seating areas, trees, plants, attractive designs, cafes or food vendors, or other features to encourage people to use the space? Who uses these spaces? Is there diversity? Does a variety of people use parks? Are they well kept up? Are there sports facilities � basketball courts, soccer pitches, baseball fields, cricket pitches, etc.? Are they used at night? Any concerns about homeless people sleeping in the park or drug use creating concerns for safety at any time? Are they being used for their intended purpose? Are they accessible to all?

Common Areas

Where do people collect for social gatherings; where do they hang out? Are they for particular groups, or are they open to all? Are there signs posted?


What are stores (grocery, retail, drug, dry cleaning, etc.) in the area? How do residents travel to them?

Environmental Quality

How much usable green space is there, and is it scattered throughout the community? Is there smog or haze? Does the air smell of smoke, garbage, car exhaust, chemicals, industrial waste, etc.? Does the water in streams, ponds, lakes, etc., seem reasonably clear? Do you happen to have an industry in your community or city known to cause some issues with environmental quality?


How do most people get around the area? Is there public transportation? If so, what kind and does it appear to be used? Who uses it? What is the condition of the streets, roads, and highways? Is there a functioning public transportation system? Is it well used? By whom? Does it allow relatively easy access to all parts & members (consider low-income, elderly & disabled) of the community? How easy is it to navigate and use? How much does it cost? Are its vehicles energy-efficient? How heavy is traffic in the community? Is it primarily commercial and industrial: vans, trucks, etc., or mostly private cars? Is there much bicycle traffic? Are there bike lanes?

Commercial Activity and Industry

What kinds of businesses are there? Are there boarded-up or vacant storefronts? Is there a mix of large and small businesses? Are there grocery stores and supermarkets, pharmacies, and other stores that provide necessities in all parts of the community? What kinds of industry exist in the community? Does it seem to be causing pollution? Are they accessible and equitable (cost/transportation/architectural access)?

What are the major industries located in the area? What types of occupations are evident?


Is there evidence of local and national newspapers to other media? Are there informational posters on streets, buses, billboards, etc.?

Service Centers

What services are available in the community:  health care, social services, schools, employment offices, etc.?

People in the Community

Who is in the area during the day? What evidence is there of particular classes of people:  upper, middle, working, lower?

Public/Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Are schools in different neighborhoods in noticeably different states of repair? Are schools well maintained? Are there colleges and universities in the community? Preschools?

Protective Services

Where are fire and police stations located? Is there evidence of police and fire protection in the area?

Streetscape and Street/Alley Use

The streetscape is the environment created by streets and the sidewalks, buildings, trees, etc. that line them. Are there trees and/or plants? Are there sidewalks? Are building facades and storefronts attractive and welcoming? Are the streets and sidewalks relatively clean? Are there trash cans? Is there outdoor seating? Are there people on the streets at most times of the day? In the evening? How late? Do they interact with one another? Are streets and sidewalks well-lit at night?

Community Safety

Where are police and fire stations located? Are they in good repair? Is the community well-lit at night? Other areas of safety concern specific to your community? 


What is the predominant ethnic group? Are there residents from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, or is the community mostly one group? Which one? Are stores, restaurants, churches, schools, or languages indicating a particular ethnic group(s)? Who lives in the community?

Are there identifiable racial and ethnic groups? Do particular groups seem to live in particular areas? What kinds of religious institutions are there? Do the institutions of one particular religion or sect dominate? Are there separate houses of worship for people of different ethnicities or races, even if they share the same faith? Do all feel welcome through the food, worship, and acceptance in the community?

How do they fit in your community? Often times many offer support through food boxes, clothes closets, or group sessions (AA/NA)? 

Religion/Faith Communities

What churches and church-run schools are in the area (denomination)? How many are there in each denomination?

Health and Morbidity

Is there evidence of any health problems such as drug/alcohol abuse, communicable or chronic diseases, mental illness (etc.)?

Health Services and Community/Public/Social Services

How many hospitals and clinics are there in the community? Where are they located? How big are they? How easy are they to get to? Are there identifiable community service providers and organizations: mental health centers, food banks, homeless shelters, welfare offices, etc.? Are they concentrated in a particular area? Are they easy to reach by public transportation? Are they accessible to those who may not have medical insurance? Where are the nearest services (medical, dental, vision, hearing) if not in your immediate community? Where are the nearest government social offices, such as the public health department that provides WIC and financial aid or the social security offices? You do not need to drive. Just google it and include it in your report.

Pride for the Area, Engagement, and Entertainment

Are there museums, libraries, theaters, restaurants, clubs, sports stadiums, historic sites, festivals or group celebrations, etc.? Are they accessible to all parts of the community (centrally located, reachable by public transportation)? Do they reflect the cultures of community members? Libraries, senior centers, public pools, and youth centers are very important to communities and often offer more equitable access to community residents.

Politics/Political Activities

Is there evidence of political activity? Are there any signs that indicate a predominant political party (parties)or concern(s)? Is it clear that political activity is allowed and/or encouraged?

You can also include a note on the resident's perceptions of their community. Your perceptions and observations based on personal observations should also be part of your notes.

Check further details from the Community Tool Box.

Tips for Conducting a Successful Windshield Survey

We have seen many students struggle with doing a windshield survey and figured out we could share some tips and insights to help you do it successfully.

  1. Choose a manageable area for your assessment. We recommend that you select a small enough area. You can begin with a zip code and then go even smaller. Most urban centers have well-defined neighborhood boundaries; take advantage of them. Consider assessing the entire town or area if you are in rural areas or a smaller town.
  2. You can broaden the area as certain services and amenities might not be available in your zoned area or smaller community, especially if it is a primary residential.
  3. Broaden your area further so that you find critical services that are not available in your community or close by but may be available in your city or county. You should state the resource in your template.
  4. Check the utilization of resources within the community against their intended purposes. For example, are teens or unhoused individuals using a specific resource rendering its inaccessibility by the community members?
  5. Consider the potential disparities in the community. Check for signs of racial/ethnic, food, entertainment, and other resource disparities.
  6. Don�t drive or walk alone at night, especially in areas that do not guarantee your safety and security. If specific groups are hostile, avoid such areas as your security matters more.
  7. As you drive around, have someone drive you so that you can observe, notice, collect data, and make notes on your windshield survey template. You risk an accident if you survey as you drive by yourself.
  8. Note the conditions of the buildings, roads, parks, and schools.
  9. Note accessibility and equitability. The architectural barriers, such as the lack of ramps or bike lanes, can affect access to resources.
  10. Ensure you read the windshield survey template and instructions before planning and executing the survey or writing the report.
  11. Survey at a convenient time for your schedule.
  12. You can do the survey more than once and at different times of the day or on different days of the week.

Structure and Format of a Windshield Survey Report

A windshield survey paper is written like any other report. It follows the formatting requirements of academic papers. In most cases, professors prefer it to be written in the latest APA format. You can write and structure your paper in APA 6 or 7, depending on the preference of your teacher/instructor.

Here are the parts of the report. Note that the report is at least three double-spaced pages, and it entails the following:

  1. Cover Page. The cover page contains your details, the school details, and the submission date. Check with your instructor if there is a specific format to be used. If not, use the Harvard or APA cover page formats.
  2. The introduction. The report's introduction should contain a background of the community, including the name of the community or neighborhood. You should also identify the boundaries of your windshield survey or the walking community assessment survey. The introduction should also include the purpose of a windshield survey, and yours specifically.
  3. The Body. The body of your windshield survey report entails clear, concise, and well-presented information that you gathered. You analyze the data gathered from the template and write what you saw, noticed, or experienced in prose. If facts are not common, ensure to provide relevant in-text citations. Translate your observations and findings into a report. Ensure that you write the report in the third person, not the first person, as it is an academic paper. The APA paper is written from the view of an outside person. You are not telling your story. Also, avoid talking about your family and avoid materials that do not apply to the community. You should use current academic references, preferably those published in the last five years. If there are references that document the characteristics of the community, use them as well.
  4. The Conclusion. The conclusion of the windshield survey paper should include the strengths and gaps of the community, including the rationale. Write about your overall impression of the community from a community health perspective. You should also include the challenges the community is facing, unexpected things you observed, aspects of the community that stood out, and other relevant information that you can use to develop a health promotion and wellness plan for the population that resides in the community.
  5. Include any piece of resources used when writing the windshield survey report. Considering protocol and practicality, consider using references published within the last five years, primarily peer-reviewed nursing journals.
  6. In the appendices, include the completed windshield survey template you used to gather data. You can also include a map of the area or images you took (with consent, if they represent people). Everything represented or referenced in the report goes to the appendices section.

Steps for Writing a Windshield Survey Report

After getting the structure right, let�s get to grips with the report writing process so that everything falls into place as it should. A good nursing report is detailed, has up-to-date information, and is devoid of errors. And to write a perfect report or essay for your windshield survey, below are some steps to take.

1. Read the instructions

The most important aspect of report writing is to begin by reading the instructions. Your instructor or professor will specify what to expect in your windshield survey instructions and template. You will be told the purpose of the windshield, the type of community, or the boundaries to set for the survey. Reading the instructions and internalizing them helps you to plan, execute, and coordinate the survey systematically and successfully.

2. Go over your windshield Survey Template

After reading the instructions, peruse through the template to understand the scope of your findings. You have taken notes already; try to understand if there is anything you did not capture and do the necessary. If you had forgotten to note something but can find it online, take note of that and include it as part of your references.

3. Research

Conduct research over the internet to identify the peer-reviewed scholarly sources to use in the paper. Identify articles and references published in the last five years for up-to-date information. It is an academic paper, and everything borrowed, paraphrased, or summarized from other sources should be cited as long as it is not common knowledge or fact to avoid plagiarism.

4. Write the First Draft

With everything set, follow the structure outlined above to write the first draft. Focus on writing first and fast and editing later to capture the essential parts before getting bored. As you write the paper, cite your peer-reviewed journals and other credible scholarly sources. Your writing process can follow any method. If you wish, you can begin from the introduction down to the conclusion or handle the windshield survey paper in bits that finally fit into a well-flowing paper.

5. Polish your First Draft to a Final Draft

After writing the report, just before turning it in, check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation used. Spend time polishing the paper so you don�t lose marks that could otherwise be saved through in-depth editing and proofreading.

Concluding Remarks

Conducting a windshield survey is never a dull assignment, like writing a nursing case study that requires in-depth research, a clinical reasoning cycle, and the application of nursing concepts and terminologies.

It is an interactive assignment that you should find interesting. Surprisingly, you can do the survey online without setting foot in the community thanks to the widespread information.

Related Readings:

If you have conducted the survey and would like a professional writer to help you write the report, do not hesitate to place an order on our website. We have been the most trusted online nursing papers website for over ten years.

You will get personal and confidential assistance. Besides, since all the papers are written from scratch, they pass plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin, Lopes Write, Safe Assign, or Unicheck, you name it. We do it as it should have been done, to the standard, citing every resource and crowning all papers with an in-depth proofreading and editing process.

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