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Extended Problem Solving in Nursing: When and Why

Nursing is a complex and challenging profession that often requires healthcare professionals to make critical decisions in high-stress situations. In the pursuit of delivering the best patient care, nurses frequently encounter various problems and scenarios that demand their attention. To address these issues effectively, nurses must employ different problem-solving strategies, and one such strategy is extended problem solving. In this article, we will explore the concept of extended problem solving in nursing and identify the specific situations in which it is most likely to be used.

I. Understanding Extended Problem Solving in Nursing

Extended problem solving is a cognitive process that healthcare professionals, including nursing students, use when confronted with complex, unfamiliar, or ambiguous situations. This problem-solving strategy involves a thorough and systematic approach to gather and evaluate information, analyze potential solutions, and make informed decisions. Extended problem solving is particularly valuable in nursing because it allows nurses to navigate challenging clinical scenarios effectively.

II. Extended Problem Solving in Medication Administration

One area where nursing students frequently employ extended problem solving is medication administration. Administering medications correctly is paramount in healthcare, as errors can have serious consequences for patients. Nursing students often find themselves in situations that require careful consideration and analysis, such as when they encounter unfamiliar medications or face patients with complex medication regimens.

In these cases, nursing students must engage in extended problem solving by:

  • Gathering Information: They need to research the medication’s name, purpose, dosage, potential side effects, and interactions with other drugs. This may involve consulting drug references, healthcare providers, or pharmacists.
  • Evaluating Patient Data: Students must review the patient’s medical history, allergies, and current conditions to assess if the medication is suitable for the individual. This step helps prevent adverse reactions.
  • Analyzing Administration Routes: Some medications may require specific administration routes, such as intravenous, intramuscular, or oral. Nursing students must evaluate which route is appropriate for each drug.
  • Double-Checking Dosages: Verifying medication dosages is crucial to prevent underdosing or overdosing, which can harm patients.

Extended problem solving in medication administration ensures that nursing students make safe and informed decisions, reducing the risk of medication errors and ensuring optimal patient care.

III. Extended Problem Solving in Patient Assessment

Nursing students also encounter situations that demand extended problem solving during the patient assessment process. Patient assessment is a fundamental nursing skill, and it is vital for making accurate clinical judgments and care decisions.

In patient assessment, extended problem solving involves:

  • Collecting Comprehensive Data: Nursing students must gather a wide range of patient data, including medical history, physical examination findings, and laboratory results. This comprehensive data collection is critical to understanding the patient’s condition fully.
  • Analyzing Clinical Signs: Interpreting clinical signs and symptoms requires nursing students to consider multiple factors that could contribute to a patient’s health status. Extended problem solving helps them identify potential causes for the observed clinical manifestations.
  • Prioritizing Care Needs: Extended problem solving assists nursing students in prioritizing patient care needs based on the severity and urgency of each issue. This is especially important in critical care and emergency nursing.
  • Creating Individualized Care Plans: Based on the data and analysis, nursing students develop personalized care plans that address the patient’s unique needs and condition.

Extended problem solving in patient assessment ensures that nursing students can make well-informed decisions about patient care, ultimately leading to better outcomes.

IV. Extended Problem Solving in Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical dilemmas are common in healthcare, and nursing students may find themselves in situations where they need to make complex moral and ethical decisions. Extended problem solving can be invaluable in navigating these challenging scenarios.

In addressing ethical dilemmas, nursing students should:

  • Identify the Ethical Issue: Recognizing that an ethical issue exists is the first step. It may involve concerns about patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, or justice.
  • Gather Relevant Information: Students must research and gather information about the ethical dilemma, including applicable laws, regulations, and ethical principles.
  • Consider Alternatives: Extended problem solving allows nursing students to explore various ethical alternatives and assess their potential consequences.
  • Consult with Peers and Ethics Committees: In some cases, it may be necessary to seek guidance and input from peers, mentors, or ethics committees to arrive at a well-considered decision.

Extended problem solving in ethical dilemmas empowers nursing students to make morally and ethically sound decisions in the best interest of their patients while upholding their professional values and responsibilities.

V. Extended Problem Solving in Complex Care Planning

Complex care planning is an essential aspect of nursing practice, particularly in areas such as critical care, pediatrics, and gerontology. Nursing students often need to develop care plans for patients with multiple comorbidities and complex needs.

During complex care planning, extended problem solving involves:

  • Comprehensive Assessment: Nursing students must conduct a thorough assessment of the patient’s physical, psychological, and social needs.
  • Identifying Potential Complications: Extended problem solving allows for the identification of potential complications, enabling proactive intervention.
  • Collaborating with Interdisciplinary Teams: In complex care scenarios, nursing students must work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, therapists, and social workers, to create holistic care plans.
  • Evaluating Outcomes: Continuous evaluation and adjustment of the care plan are crucial in complex care scenarios, and extended problem solving aids in making data-driven decisions.


Nursing students face numerous complex and multifaceted situations in their clinical practice that require extended problem solving. Whether it’s medication administration, patient assessment, ethical dilemmas, or complex care planning, extended problem solving is a vital skill that empowers students to make well-informed and patient-centered decisions.

As nursing students, it’s essential to hone your extended problem-solving skills to excel in your clinical practice and provide the best possible care to your patients. Additionally, for those seeking assistance with nursing assignments or essays, remember that our writing services are available to provide expert guidance and support in your academic journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today to ensure your success as a nursing student and future healthcare professional.

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