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Top 5 Nursing Care Plan Mistakes to Avoid

nursing care plans

by Brook Jillings

Nursing care plans are designed to lay out a patient's assessment, identify clear goals and justify any interventions given.  

This allows other nurses the opportunity to follow clear care guidelines so the patient receives a consistent experience and is given a higher chance for a positive outcome.  

The importance of nursing care plans requires nurses to be diligent and avoid common mistakes that reduce their benefit.  

Learn how to avoid the five most common mistakes made when creating a nurse care plan.

5 Nursing Care Plan Mistakes You Should Avoid 

1. Focusing too much on the medicine 

The ultimate goal of any medical professional is to heal, but it's possible to become too focused on the medicine, forgetting the unique needs of the individual patient.  

"Too often the nursing care plan takes on a medical focus, with a medical diagnosis being the problem," says Haleigh Ehmsen, Assistant Director of Integrated Communications at Saint Mary's College.  

"But nursing care plans should focus on the patient and, more importantly, how the medical diagnosis impacts the patient." 

2. Unrealistic goals and interventions 

Goals and interventions are an important part of any nursing care plan. Their critical functions are the reason nurses must take care to be realistic.  

"Goals should be specific and tailored to the patient," explains Ehmsen. "Interventions should be specific, realistic and appropriate for the patient ... The focus of any nursing care plan is the patient."  

Make sure the goals are designed to meet the patient's needs and the interventions are within the patient's abilities. 

3. Leaving out details 

The key to solid nursing care plans is to make sure you have all the information necessary. Communicate clearly with the patient and their family to get a whole-picture view of the situation.  

Make sure every detail is included in the care plan so other nurses can work from the same level of information.

4. Not double checking for errors 

Errors in documentation lead to medical errors in care; therefore, it's critical to look over your completed nursing care plan for possible mistakes.  

An extra once-over helps protect your patient from dangerous miscalculations or communication errors.  

Verifying your nurse care plan is free of errors also protects your position, your professional reputation and the hospital from potential litigation should something go wrong. 

5. Underestimating the importance of a nursing care plan 

Although nursing grads often see the nursing care plan as an inconvenience, it serves many important functions. For example:

  • Promotes continuity of care
  • Serves as legal documentation of care
  • Is used by insurance companies to justify reimbursement
  • Identifies specific staff needs
  • Clearly lays out care goals
  • Creates patient-focused, individualized care instructions
  • Gives nurses autonomy to make decisions for their patients' well-being

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