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A nursing concept map is a graphic representation of related elements developed into a working plan for providing patient care (Schuster, 2008). RNs that use concept maps gather and logically analyze all data required for care for a patient and then “map” the components graphically.

Concept maps enable nurses to visualize priorities, identify relationships between concepts, and analyze the relationships and interactions between elements. Concept mapping also helps nurses identify their existing relevant knowledge, challenge gaps in that knowledge, and eventually form a more personalized understanding of the science of nursing practice (Fitzgerald, n.d.).

Consider all aspects of the person in planning and providing nursing care including physical and psychosocial aspects, family relationships, cultural aspects, and environmental elements.

Having a systematic method of connecting and organizing all relevant information about a person makes a difference in the quality of care you provide. Looking holistically at each patient potentially creates a sense of accomplishment for you as a RN.

A significant advantage of concept maps is that much important information is located all on one page! Viewing the connections between concepts and anticipating potential signs and symptoms is facilitated. The concept map is also a tool for the evaluation of care you provide.

Ensure at a minimum that you can

  • reflect on your current processes for organizing patient care and consider improvements;
  • define patient care concept maps;
  • describe how concept maps are used in planning and organizing nursing care; and
  • outline the advantages of concept map nursing care plans.

Learning Activities

1. How to create a concept map.

2. Often a concept map starts with a question. For nursing concept maps the starting questions will be about the patient including:

  • Who is this person?
  • Why did the patient come to the care environment?
  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What kind of care is needed?
  • Who is this person’s family?

Think about a patient you cared for recently and consider the answers to these questions.

Doodle the key findings from these answers into a beginning level concept map. Are there other questions that would be helpful to ask yourself as you develop a map to guide your nursing care?

4. Reflection Moment: Take time to reflect

Concept mapping helps with patient care organization and critical thinking. Critical thinking in nursing involves complex analysis of comprehensive information (Wilgis & McConnell, 2008). This mimics what you do with concept map construction. Your ability to think critically is enhanced as you master concept mapping and you are able to visualize your priorities and identify the relationships in your clinical data (Schuster, 2008, p. 4). How can you improve the depth of your critical thinking? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Unit 1 Forum.

Do you want to know more about concept maps and enhanced critical thinking? Read Concept mapping as means to critical thinking.