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How to write nursing protocols

Updated March 23, 2017

Nursing protocols are detailed plans that describe a care plan for nurses for a particular condition or disease. Writing nursing protocols might seem like a daunting task, but the format is essentially the same across nursing practices and institutions. Guidelines, formatting tips and templates are readily available.

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  1. Divide the nursing protocol into three parts. The first part will define in detail the condition; the second part will describe the actual nursing plan (drug and non-drug treatments, counselling, follow-up and referral); and the final part will list the scientific references that justify the care plan. An example and template to follow on all three parts is available in References.

  2. Divide the first section into concise categories with separate headings (example found in References). Categories include Definition (define the condition), Etiology (describe the cause and contributing factors), Subjective (show history and symptoms), Objective (describe findings from physical exam or lab tests) and Assessment (clinical judgment or diagnosis from nurse perspective).

  3. The second section addresses the nursing plan and is divided into Diagnostic Studies, Therapeutic (drug treatments and non-drug treatments such as diet or lifestyle changes), Client Education/Counseling (such as patient education materials), Follow-up and Consultation/Referral (if the condition requires more specialised care).

  4. The third section should provide published references (scientific studies, journal articles or other materials) to support the protocol. Include at least one reference published within the last two or three years and use the reference format in The Gregg Reference Manual, Tenth Edition (link in References, or available in most medical libraries).

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About the Author

Matt Browning

Matt Browning has been writing about health, science, food and travel since 1990. His career has spanned advocacy, medical communications and public relations and his stories have won awards from the Virginia Press Association. Browning earned a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from the University of Virginia.

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