Purpose of nursing care plans

Written by carolyn kay neeley
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Nursing care plans are an important part of providing quality patient care. They help to define the nurses' role in the patient's treatment, provide consistency of care and allow the nursing team to customise its interventions for each patient. Additionally, it promotes holistic treatment of the patient and helps define specific goals for the patient.

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Defining the Nurses' Role

Nurses cannot make medical diagnoses--only physicians are legally allowed to do that. However, oftentimes physicians tend to neglect the social, emotional or other physical needs of the patient that are not directly related to the medical diagnosis. Nurses are the first line of defence here and usually see the things that doctors do not pick up. That is where the nursing diagnosis comes into play, and why a nursing care plan is developed.

The nursing care plan helps to identify the unique role that nurses have in caring for the overall health and well-being of their patients and allows them to adequately address their patients' needs without having to rely solely on a doctor's orders or interventions.

Providing Consistency of Care

Another important function or purpose of nursing care plans is to provide consistency of care across time. If a nursing care plan is in place, nurses from different shifts or different floors can utilise this information to provide the same quality and type of interventions to care for patients, thus allowing patients to receive the most benefit from treatment.

Customising Care Interventions

The nursing care plan also helps to customise treatment so it is specific to the individual's needs and goals. Each patient is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach simply will not work. The nursing care plan requires the nurse to think critically about each patient and to develop interventions that are directly tailored to the individual, which ultimately increases the effectiveness of treatment.

Promoting Holistic Treatment

Nursing care plans, while created primarily for the nursing team, can also be used by interdisciplinary team members to promote cohesive and comprehensive holistic treatment of the patient. If other team members are aware of the goals and interventions laid out in the nursing care plan, they can better work in conjunction with, rather than counteractive to, the nursing staff. For example, a physical therapist who is aware that the patient is at risk for depression due to decreased social interactions may choose to have that patient participate in a group exercise during physiotherapy, instead of exercising alone.

Defining Patient Goals

Getting patients involved in their own treatment is critical to good health and the success of any treatment or intervention. A nursing care plan can help both nurses and patients identify and define realistic, achievable goals for the patient and offer a measurable marker for success and encouragement when one of these goals is met. It is effective in involving patients in their own treatment and care and can actually serve as an intervention for patients with certain nursing diagnoses, like at risk for depression or displaying symptoms of withdrawal or anxiety.

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