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How to Make a Nursing Concept Map

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Whether a nursing student is trying to remember the various important pieces of information about a medical condition, or a practicing nurse is attempting to put a patient's complaints and data into context, a concept map can help to organize related pieces of information. Joseph Novak created the idea of concept mapping in the 1970s to teach biology to his students. A concept map looks like a group of circles or rectangles filled with information and linked by lines or arrows. Concept maps help nursing students and practicing nurses to visualize information and generate ideas based on what they already know.

Uses of Concept Mapping

Concept mapping can help both those in the nursing profession and those who are in nursing school. Creating a concept map develops a nursing student's critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills. It can also help students take the theoretical knowledge that they have gained from class and apply it to an actual case study or real-life patient in an organized way. For nurses, the use of a concept map can promote a multidisciplinary approach, allowing them to view the patient holistically and visualize the connections between various aspects of a specific patient or condition.

Structure of a Concept Map

To develop a basic concept map, think about the purpose that the map will serve and develop a basic structure accordingly. For example, if the concept map is discussing a specific medical condition, the circles or rectangles on the map might include one on the causes of the condition, another on the symptoms, another on the prognosis, and several others on tests and treatments associated with the condition. Alternatively, if the concept map's purpose is to describe a certain patient's condition, the central box might give some basic personal information about the patient, with surrounding boxes listing the patient's complaints, responses to basic medical questions, test results, current medications and possible treatment plans.

Creating a Concept Map

To create a concept map, a nursing practitioner must decide which information is most important to include, as well as which information should be clustered in a single box. Then, the practitioner must organize the information with labels, as well as link the pieces of information in a logical manner. After the concept map is created, the practitioner must use it effectively to develop goals, interventions and outcomes for the patient or for the condition. If the map describes a specific patient, the practitioner must then evaluate these outgrowths of the concept map to ensure that they have been effective.

Limitations

When used in nursing, a concept map does have its limitations. For example, since concept maps are generally handwritten instead of typed, illegible handwriting can be a huge obstacle in trying to decipher a completed concept map. This can lead to misunderstandings, which can compromise optimum care. The development of a concept map can also be time consuming -- both the learning process that nurses must undergo in order to create quality maps, and the time that it takes to create each map as the opportunity arises.