The nursing process is something often discussed
in nursing theory. Most nurses use the nursing process without
realizing it is a part of their careers. That is, it comes as
second nature to them rather than thinking out each step as they
take it. If you're just beginning to learn about nursing and
nursing theory, understanding the nursing process can help you
gain a deeper appreciation for how nurses care for their patients,
as well as better prepare you to implement the process into your own nursing process.
What is the nursing process?
The nursing process is a set of steps followed by
nurses in order to care for patients. How a particular nurse uses the
nursing process varies based on the nurse, the patient, and the
situation, but the process generally follows the same steps:
assessment, diagnosis, plan, implementation, evaluation.
The first step, assessment, is used to get the patient's history, as well as a list of
symptoms or complaints. Using the information gathered in the assessment, the nurse and
other health care professionals can form a diagnosis. The diagnosis is the determination
of what's wrong with the patient, if anything. The assessment and diagnosis allow the nurse
to develop a nursing care plan, which is a plan of action for how to care for the patient.
This step includes goals set by both the nurse and patient, and determining how best to meet
those goals. The implementation sets the nursing care plan in motion in order to meet the
Finally, the patient is evaluated by the nurse to show whether or not goals were met.
Evaluation may be done during the implementation phase in order to make changes to the
nursing care plan as needed. For example, if the patient gets worse, he or she may need
to be reassessed to come up with a different diagnosis and plan of action. The nurse
may also be evaluated at this point to determine how he or she cared for the patient.
Why is the nursing process used?
The nursing process is used to regulate patient
care and how nurses interact with patients. By following a particular
set of steps in the nursing process, a nurse knows exactly what to
do to care for a patient and what comes next.
The nursing process also allows nurses to keep better track of patient care in terms of
record-keeping. As a nurse is writing up notes about a patient, he or she can mentally
go through the nursing process and make notes about each step. This will help ensure
that the nurse does not forget a step or notes about an aspect of patient care, and
the rest of a patient's health care team will be able to follow the process the nurse
used, as well.
How are nursing theories applied to the nursing process?
Some nursing models deal directly with the nursing
process. That is, these theories guide nurses in how to treat patients
from assessment through evaluation. Other nursing theories give a modified
version of the nursing process, adapting them to fit the model of nursing.
However, there are also nursing theories that don't apply to the nursing
process. These theories may only apply to a specific aspect of nursing,
such as assessment, rather than the nursing process as a whole.