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Writing a Nursing Diagnosis: A Complete Guide

Nursing diagnosis is essential to nursing, providing a structured framework for identifying and addressing patients’ health needs. As nursing students, mastering the art of writing nursing diagnoses is crucial for providing quality patient care. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of writing a nursing diagnosis, step by step, ensuring you understand the key components and formatting. By the end of this article, you will have the skills and confidence to create effective nursing diagnoses that will benefit you and your patients.

Understanding Nursing Diagnosis

1.1 What is a Nursing Diagnosis?

A nursing diagnosis is a clinical judgment made by a nurse to identify a patient’s health problem, potential health problems, or wellness status. It serves as a basis for developing a care plan to meet the patient’s needs, improve their health outcomes, and provide individualized care.

1.2 Importance of Nursing Diagnosis

  • Patient-Centered Care: Nursing diagnoses help nurses focus on patients’ unique needs and provide personalized care plans.
  • Clinical Decision Making: They guide nurses in prioritizing interventions and setting achievable goals.
  • Documentation: Nursing diagnoses serve as a record of the patient’s health status, which is vital for communication among healthcare providers.
  • Evaluation: They provide a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of nursing interventions.

Writing a Nursing Diagnosis

2.1 Gathering Data

The first step in writing a nursing diagnosis is to collect comprehensive patient data. This includes:

  • Subjective Data: Information provided by the patient, such as their symptoms, feelings, and perceptions.
  • Objective Data: Observations and measurements made by the nurse, like vital signs and physical assessments.
  • Medical History: Previous medical conditions, surgeries, and medications.

2.2 Formulating Nursing Diagnoses

A nursing diagnosis typically consists of three components:

  • Problem: Describes the patient’s health issue or concern.
  • Etiology: Identifies the cause or contributing factors of the problem.
  • Symptoms or Defining Characteristics: Lists the signs and symptoms that support the diagnosis.

For example:

  • Problem: Impaired Gas Exchange
  • Etiology: Ineffective breathing pattern related to pneumonia.
  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath, decreased oxygen saturation, increased respiratory rate.

2.3 Using the PES Format

To ensure clarity and consistency in your nursing diagnoses, use the PES (Problem-Etiology-Symptoms) format. This format clearly defines the problem, its cause, and the evidence supporting the diagnosis.

  • Problem: The “P” in PES; it is the patient’s health issue.
  • Etiology: The “E” in PES; it represents the cause or contributing factors.
  • Symptoms: The “S” in PES; these are the observed signs and symptoms.

2.4 Avoiding Medical Diagnoses

Nursing diagnoses should focus on the patient’s response to their health condition, not on medical diagnoses. For example, instead of writing “Diabetes Mellitus,” write “Risk for Uncontrolled Blood Glucose Levels related to lack of diabetes management knowledge.”

2.5 Prioritizing Nursing Diagnoses

In clinical practice, nurses often encounter multiple nursing diagnoses for one patient. Prioritize these diagnoses based on the patient’s immediate needs and the severity of their conditions. The most urgent issues should take precedence in your care plan.

Formatting Dialogue in an Essay

3.1 The Role of Dialogue in Nursing Essays

In nursing essays, dialogue is often used to illustrate patient-nurse interactions, convey information, or present case studies. Proper formatting of dialogue is essential for clarity and readability.

3.2 Quotation Marks

When including direct speech or dialogue in your essay, enclose the spoken words within double quotation marks. For example:

Nurse Smith asked, “How are you feeling today?”

Patient Jones replied, “I’m experiencing some chest pain.”

3.3 Paragraphing

Each time there is a change in the speaker or topic, start a new paragraph. This helps readers follow the conversation and identify who is speaking. For example:

Nurse Smith asked, “How are you feeling today?”

Patient Jones replied, “I’m experiencing some chest pain.”

Nurse Smith inquired, “Can you describe the pain? Is it sharp or dull?”

3.4 Punctuation

Use commas and periods correctly within dialogue. Commas should be placed inside the quotation marks, while periods should be placed inside if they are part of the quoted text, but outside if they are not. For example:

Incorrect: “I’m not sure if I can do this.” Nurse Smith hesitated.

Correct: “I’m not sure if I can do this,” Nurse Smith hesitated.

3.5 Attribution

Always attribute the dialogue to the appropriate speaker. This helps maintain clarity in your essay. For example:

Patient Jones stated, “I’m feeling very weak today.”

Nurse Smith reassured him, “We’ll take good care of you.”


Mastering the art of writing nursing diagnoses and formatting dialogue in essays is a crucial skill for nursing students. Effective nursing diagnoses are the foundation of patient-centered care, while well-formatted dialogue enhances the quality of your essays and reports. As you continue your nursing education, remember that practice makes perfect. Regularly assess and refine your nursing diagnosis skills, and pay attention to proper dialogue formatting in your written assignments. By doing so, you’ll enhance your nursing practice and excel in your academic pursuits.

If you ever find yourself struggling with nursing assignments, including writing nursing diagnoses or formatting dialogue in essays, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Our professional writing services are here to support you on your academic journey. Contact us today to discover how we can help you succeed in your nursing studies.


Q1: What is an example of a nursing diagnosis in nursing?

A1: An example of a nursing diagnosis is “Impaired Physical Mobility related to postoperative pain and restricted range of motion,” which addresses a patient’s mobility issues after surgery.

Q2: What is the correct format for writing a nursing diagnosis and what are Nanda approved diagnoses?

A2: The correct format for a nursing diagnosis is the PES format – Problem, Etiology, and Symptoms. NANDA International (formerly known as North American Nursing Diagnosis Association) is a standardized source of approved nursing diagnoses, offering a comprehensive list of diagnoses for nursing practice.

Q3: How do you write a nursing diagnosis goal?

A3: Nursing diagnosis goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, if the nursing diagnosis is “Risk for Falls,” a SMART goal might be “Patient will demonstrate proper use of assistive devices within one week to reduce fall risk.”

Q4: What is SMART format in nursing?

A4: SMART format is a goal-setting framework used in nursing to make goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It helps ensure that nursing interventions are clear, achievable, and focused on improving patient outcomes.

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