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Applying the Nursing Process in a Real-World Clinical Setting

Nurses spend many years of their lives studying to get their advanced nursing degree and learning the important concepts that they need to master in order to function successfully. Those working towards their nursing degree learn that one of the most important skills nurses obtain during their education is the ability to understand and apply the nursing process. This process is not only useful throughout the field of nursing, but it can also be applied to other careers, as well as non-professional issues the nurse may face during his or her life.

About the Nursing Process

The nursing process is the procedure nurses use to manage patient care. This process is the basis of how nurses think and operate in clinical patient care. It becomes engrained in their subconscious rather than being a checklist that they go through with each patient. It involves several distinct steps, including:

  • Assessment

During this phase of the nursing process, nurses collect information about their patients. Information may be objective or subjective in nature. For example, nurses may collect quantitative measures of the patient's vital signs, along with a subjective report of the patient's current symptoms. In addition to information that is directly related to the patient's health, nurses should also pay attention to economic, spiritual, sociocultural and psychological characteristics when assessing the condition of a patient.

  • Analysis and Reporting

After collecting data, the nurse must organize and interpret the information. The primary goal during this part of the process is to establish a nursing diagnosis or modify an existing diagnosis of the patient's health conditions or needs. Once a diagnosis has been established or modified, the nurse should also report this information to other members of the health care team.

  • Planning

During the planning stage of the nursing process, the nurse uses information collected during assessment, as well as the current nursing diagnosis, to establish short-term and long-term goals for patient care. All of this information is recorded into a written plan that all members of the healthcare team can access.

  • Implementation

Once a plan for patient care has been established, the nurse can provide care to the patient in accordance with the plan. All care provided should be documented in the patient's record for later review.

  • Evaluation

Throughout the duration of the nurse's relationship with the patient, they should continually evaluate the patient's health status. The effectiveness of the patient's current plan for care should also be reevaluated on a regular basis. When necessary, the nurse should modify the patient's care plan and report the changes to all members of the healthcare team.

Applying the Nursing Process in Other Careers

Although it was originally designed for use in the nursing profession only, the nursing process can be useful in other fields as well. On its most basic level, the nursing process teaches professionals how to evaluate a situation or problem, establish solutions and/or goals, follow through with a plan and assess the effectiveness of their efforts. This problem-solving strategy can be used in virtually any career, from business to financial services. This strategy can also be useful to nurses who advance to leadership positions.

Consider the nurse who eventually becomes head of a nursing unit. They will be responsible for a number of tasks, including scheduling, overseeing patient care, mediating conflict among other nurses and more. The nurse can use the nursing process to accomplish all of these tasks. When creating a shift schedule, the nurse will use the nursing process as follows:

  • Assessment: The nurse will collect information about what shifts must be covered and how many nurses are needed for each shift. He or she may also inquire about each staff member's shift preferences.
  • Analysis: The nurse will analyze and organize the information collected.
  • Planning: The nurse will use the organized information to develop the best possible schedule.
  • Implementation: The nurse will inform all staff members and other relevant personnel of the schedule.
  • Evaluation: The nurse will evaluate the effectiveness of the current schedule on a regular basis and make changes as needed.

Applying the Nursing Process to Everyday Situations

The nursing process can also be applied in everyday situations nurses may face, whether it be at home or in society. Examples of situations in which the nursing process may be useful include:

  • Organizing school or community fundraisers
  • Creating a household budget
  • Helping a friend or family member make a plan for their education or future career
  • Planning a renovation project

Not all students who enter the nursing profession will remain in this field forever. However, whether an individual continues in nursing indefinitely or chooses a different career path, the nursing process will remain a valuable tool in both the individual's personal and professional life.