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What is a case study in nursing?

The ability to write nursing case studies is a prominent area in which students are frequently examined in order to successfully complete their nursing degrees. A nursing case study paper is an essay in which students conduct a factual and in-depth examination of a patient’s case or current care plan and come up with recommendations that are of the most benefit to a patient and follow the best practice guidelines. 

Why do nursing students do case studies?

Case studies in nursing are meant to help students gain valuable knowledge, in-depth understanding, and relevant skills in dealing with patients’ cases which they will encounter in their every day practice in their respective specialties. Despite the fact that case studies are too tailored to specific subjects covered under the study and cannot provide guidelines for a wider application, they play an important role in framing research questions which can be explored in clinical studies (Budgell, 2008).

What is a nursing case study analysis based on?

A case study in nursing evaluates a scenario based on 4 steps: a patient’s status, a nursing assessment of the patient, the current care plan in place, and recommendations for a new care plan. Below are these sections explored in detail.

Case Study Analysis Step 1: Patient Status 

The status of the patient is the first point of analysis when writing a case study in nursing. It includes a description of the patient and the patient’s reason for seeking medical help/complaint.

Tips on what to include when writing a patient’s status section

  1. First, include the patient’s demographic data  such as age, gender, race, and nationality.
  2. Second, write down the patient’s complaint.
  3. Take notes by paraphrasing the patient’s own words.

Case Study Analysis Step 2: Nursing Assessment 

When analyzing a patient’s case, a nursing student needs to obtain data from the patient, obtain the patient’s history from available records, and conduct some clinical assessments.

Tips on what to include in a nursing assessment

  1. First, write down the patient’s complaint. Eg.  ‘…patient Xyz visited our health facility complaining of chest pains and dizziness…’
  2. Second, write down the patient’s medical history such as what led the patient to seek medical help in the past, how often, and what was the last visit to a hospital/sought help.
  3. Third, write down the results from the patient’s clinical examination.

Case Study Analysis Step 3: Current Care Plan 

In this section, write in detail about the treatment plan the patient has been undergoing. 

Tips on what to include in a nursing assessment

  1. Write down the current care plan – you can also note why the healthcare practitioner chose to diagnose the patient for that condition.
  2. Second, write the exact details of the care plan.
  3. When did the care plan start and is it finished?
  4. Has the patient improved or worsened?

Case Study Analysis Step 3: Recommendations for Improvement or New Care Plan

Give an overview of the nursing care plan and its objectives, and describe how the nursing care plan contributes to the patient’s overall well-being.

Tips on what to include:

  1. How do you hope that the patient’s life will be improved as a result of the nursing care plan?
  2. What methods will be used to carry out the treatment plan?
  3. When and how will the care plan be implemented?
  4. Who will be in charge of this? How will the care plan be implemented?
  5. To evaluate the success of the plan, what measurable objectives will they use as a gauge?

How to Write a Nursing Case Study Section-by-Section

Writing an excellent nursing case study paper does not have to be a time-consuming or stressful endeavor to do. Below is a comprehensive guide on what each section should include and tips on what to add in order to score an excellent grade.

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A case study in nursing has 10 sections:

  1. Title page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Case Presentation
  5. Management & Outcome
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. References
  9. Legends
  10. Permissions

Section 1: Title Page

This section contains the full name of your case study, your name, institution, date and any other details required under the required formatting guideline such as APA or MLA.

Tips on how to write a title page for a nursing case study:

  1. The title for your case study should be at least 8 words long. You can format it in either of two ways: Nominal or compound.
    Nominal title example: A Case Study of Liver Cirrhosis which Responded to Chronic Hepatitis C
    Compound title example: ‘Response of Liver Cirrhosis to Chronic Hepatitis C: A Case Study.’
  2. The title should capture the case study aptly (concise description of a case). It should tell a reader exactly what is in the content

Section 2: Abstract

An abstract in a case study is a short summary of the entire paper. It is usually 100-200 words long. It can be written either as a narrative or a structured abstract. A narrative abstract summarizes the nursing case study paper in a logical, essay format with no headings. On the other hand, a structured abstract uses short subheadings with points listing major points made in the nursing case study paper. An abstract should be written once a student completes writing the case study essay.

Tips on how to write an abstract for a nursing case study:

  1. Start with an introduction statement in your abstract. In one or two sentences, describe the case and provide a summary.
  2. In the next 2-3 sentences, write about the case. Present info describing a patient’s history, clinical tests results, current diagnosis and current care plan. 
  3. Next, describe a patient’s management and outcome. This includes the patient’s complaint as narrated by the patient, how the condition evolved, and outcome measures taken so far.
  4. Finally, in 2-3 sentences, write a summary of the discussion section. Highlight any inconsistences noted under the current care plan versus your recommendations. Include any lessons or learning opportunities.

Section 3: Introduction

In order to write an excellent nursing case study, a student should provide detailed information on the context for the case under analysis. This provides a clear idea of the case. The intro should be 2-4 paragraphs long.

Tips on how to write an intro section:

  1. Include what is interesting about this case. 
  2. Provide a historical or social context.
  3. Illustrate challenges found in the case such as diagnosis or management.

Section 4: Case Presentation

This section contains all the raw data collected from the patient or from the nurse’s assessment. Data from the patient include demographic data and the patient’s complaint as recorded in his or her own words. It also includes data obtained when a nurse is noting the patient’s history. Finally, include data obtained from clinical tests/examination of the patient. This section has no recommended page length. The most important thing is to cover all the important aspects accurately, in detail, and paint a clear picture.

Tips on how to write a case presentation section:

  1. The first few sentences should be about the patient’s complaint. Ensure that you write the complaint by paraphrasing the patient’s own words.
  2. The next sentences should be about the patient’s history. This should be written in paragraph format/ as a narrative. Include why the current diagnosis was arrived at.
  3. Third, in full and complete sentences, write about the results obtained from a clinical assessment. 
  4. Restrict your writing on clinical assessment to only the relevant information. Describe actual results in detail.
  5. Finally, reference to images such as -rays or other lab results when writing a clinical assessment. These will be included in the legends section. Any images used should be labelled accordingly i.e. X-ray 1.1.

Section 5: Management and Outcome

The management and outcome section in a nursing case study essay describes the care plan which was provided and how the patient responded.

Tips on how to write a management & outcome section

  1. What was the treatment plan? How many times was  it provided? Which particular techniques were used?
  2. When writing about the outcome, write about: How did the patient respond? Does the patient state that he or she improved or worsened?
  3. How was the outcome validated? Details of how the patient’s situation was monitored are crucial.
  4. Finally, include when and how the care plan was completed (if already finished).

Section 6: Discussion

This section details questions arising from the management and outcome section. It also includes lessons learnt from the case and opportunities for improvement in the future. 2-3 paragraphs should suffice.

Tips on how to write a discussion section for a nursing case study:

  1. Start by identifying questions arising from the management and outcome of the case. Provide a detailed explanation on why you find these issues as arising/pertinent for this case.
  2. Next, identify the lessons learnt from this case.
  3. Finally, write about learning opportunities and improvement opportunities in the future

Section 7: Acknowledgements

In this section, acknowledge individuals organizations that helped you prepare the case study. A paragraph or itemized list should suffice for this section. For Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) case studies, this section is not important and can be excluded.

Section 8: References

It goes without saying that all academic papers must be properly referenced. This ensures that students turn in a plagiarism-free assignment and pays homage to authors whose works you have referred to or used when preparing the case study essay. List at least 8 references in the bibliography section for your case study.

Tips on how to write a references section for a nursing case study:

  1. Refer to the formatting guidelines stipulated in your course syllabus or rubric for this nursing class and find out if the essay should be in APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, IEEE, or other format.
  2. Sources cited should be listed in alphabetical order. Refer to our guides on referencing in any citation style if you need help or clarification.

Section 9: Legends

On a new page under the references section, include a legends section. This section entails all images, figures, tables, or photographs referred to when writing the case study.

Tips on how to write a legends section for a nursing case study:

  1. Label each image, table, photo, or figure appropriately i.e. Table 1.1 and include a title i.e. Table 1.1: Lateral Chest X-Ray.
  2. Provide a short description for each item in (1) above.

Section 10: Permissions

This section includes permissions granted for use of material that otherwise requires authorization. This material may include a letter of authorization from your institution or a patient. Any other consent required is detailed here.

Important Tips When Writing Nursing Case Studies

    1. Tip 1: Case Study Length

      Your final case study paper should be at least 1500 words long unless otherwise stipulated by your instructor/rubric/writing guidelines.

    2. Tip 2: Gather All Requisite Material

      Before you start writing your case study for a nursing class, gather all relevant material including finding relevant peer-reviewed/scholarly sources that you will need. Next, review your course syllabus to familiarize yourself with the set learning objectives (LOs) for this nursing class. Finally, review the rubric in order to determine which sections carry the most weight and are graded with the most points so that you can lay greater emphasis on these sections when writing your paper.

    3. Tip 3: Write an Outline

      Start by writing an outline for your case study. The outline should include all headings and sub-headings that your will include in your draft. It should also include major points and sub-points needed for each section.

    4. Write a draft section by section

      Refer to our guide above on how to write a nursing case study section-by-section. You will need ample time in order to capture all required and relevant details that will help you score an excellent grade. Start the paper by writing the introduction. Remember that the abstract is final ‘gradable’ section that you will write after you complete other sections of your essay.

    5. Relevant and Factual Info

      Restrict your case study analysis to relevant information. Stick to the facts and restrict your analysis to information that is relevant to this particular case study.

    6. Case study; not a Story!

      Write about the information presented in the case study and provide a proper analysis. Remember that a case study is not a general essay or a reflection. It requires proper analysis backed by guideline set under best practices and peer-reviewed sources published in journals and other scholarly secondary sources.

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