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01.01 Purpose of Nursing Care Plans

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  1. Nursing Care Plans written during school or clinicals
    1. Goal = help you think critically
    2. Patient-centered
  2. Nursing Care Plans in actual clinical practice
    1. Not usually written down
    2. Still patient-centered
  3. Essentially, putting the “Nursing Process” on paper!

Nursing Points


  1. Primary Purpose of Nursing Care Plans
    1. Identify Priorities
      1. What is your patient’s biggest problem?
      2. What needs to be addressed today?
    2. Patient-Centered, Holistic Interventions
      1. Focus on YOUR patient – what do they need?
      2. What would get them closer to their goal today?
    3. Define Patient Goals
      1. How would I know if the problem has improved?
      2. What can the patient effectively accomplish today?
    4. Define Nurse’s Role
      1. Helps you understand your role in their recovery
      2. Different from the Provider’s role
        1. Often more holistic
    5. Provide Continuity of Care
      1. Communication between nurses/shifts
      2. Everyone moving towards the same goals

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Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Alright guys, in this lesson I’m excited to explore the actual purpose of nursing care plans.

It can be really frustrating to be in school and hear nurses say things like “you’ll never do nursing care plans in real life”. It makes you feel like you’re absolutely wasting your time, right?  Well our goal in this lesson, and in this whole course is to help you understand the real purpose of nursing care plans and how they can help you throughout school and beyond. We truly believe nursing care plans are SO invaluable to provide really incredible care for your patients, it’s just that the process evolves over time as you gain more experience. So we’ll dive into that here and in the rest of this course, and we’re going to make you guys believers as well.

So the big thing you’ll notice is that nursing care plans look different when you’re in school versus when you’re in clinical practice. This is part of the reason why you’ll hear experienced nurses tell you you’ll never do one.  Well in the lesson on using nursing care plans in clinicals, we’ll dive deeper into that. But, for now, I just want to help you understand some of the high level major differences. When you’re in school, you are most likely writing these care plans in some sort of specific format. They may have a table for you, or a chart, or a form to fill out.  It’s always patient-centered – what is going on today with your patient and what do you need to do about it. The ultimate goal of creating these nursing care plans in school is to help you learn to think critically. In clinical practice, it’s usually not written, but it’s still happening! It’s still patient-centered, and it still serves its purpose.  So let’s explore in more detail the overall purpose of these nursing care plans.

The first thing nursing care plans will help you do is to identify your priorities. Once you’ve gathered all your information, you can determine what your patient’s biggest problem or problems are. What issues need to be addressed before the others.  It’s also important to be thinking about what problems or issues you may actually be able to address today, as opposed to those long-term things. We’ll look in more detail at how to evaluate this when we talk about how to write a nursing care plan.

Once you’ve identified your priorities and the issues you want to address, you can start to choose interventions. What do you need to do to address those issues? Also – again, think about what you can do to get them closer to their goal TODAY.

Speaking of goals – nursing care plans help us to define those patient goals. Think of this in terms of how you would know that this issue isn’t an issue anymore?  Or what would be the evidence that it’s improving. And, as always, think in the short term as well as long term. What kinds of things can my patient possibly accomplish TODAY.  We’re not going to see a wound decrease in size by 50% in one day, right? But maybe we could see it NOT get larger, or NOT show signs of infection, right? That could be our patient’s goal for the day.

Nursing care plans also help us to define our unique role in the care of the patient. Sometimes we get so focused on following provider orders, like administering medications, that we forget that our role is much bigger and much more holistic than what the provider sees.  So it’s important to think about everything we can do for this patient, not just what medical treatments they need.

Lastly, and truly most importantly, nursing care plans help to provide continuity of care.  When we communicate this plan of care between nurses or between shifts, we can make sure everyone is on the same page and moving towards the same goals!  It also helps to say “this is what I saw, this is what I did about it, and this was the outcome – so we’re a little closer to where we wanted to be”. We have to work together as a team to get the patient where they need to be.

Like I said – we want to make you a believer in the importance of care plans. So just to recap the major purposes – Nursing Care Plans help us to identify priorities for the patient, choose appropriate, holistic, patient-centered interventions that help us reach those patient goals we defined. They also help us to define our unique role as nurses and to provide continuity of care between nurses so that we’re all on the same page.

So, don’t get bogged down in the detail or the formality of a nursing care plan. Remember that there is a much larger purpose at play here that ultimately leads us towards better patient outcomes!  In the rest of this course we’re going to explore a 5-step process to writing nursing care plans and we’re going to work a BUNCH of examples with you so that you can feel super comfortable. Make sure you check out our Care Plan Library of over 130 Nursing Care Plans. Use these as a guide to help you plan specific patient-centered care for YOUR patients.  Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!