Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Writing in Nursing

Nursing students must learn to write several different types of papers, for a few different audiences. Nurses must be brief but precise when filling out flowcharts, narrating patient history, describing nursing theories, and presenting case studies and literature reviews. Here are a few tips that will serve you well on all of these documents.


1. Use complete sentences whenever possible. Medical writing often relies on abbreviation and shorthand. Nursing is a fast-moving profession, and hospital administrators prize efficiency. But too much shorthand can lead to poor communication. Incomplete sentences sometimes hide the actors, or give too little information about the actions performed. 


2. Passive voice is usually more acceptable in medical writing, but not when it obscures the nature of actions. In medical writing (and the sciences generally), passive voice is considered more objective than active voice. If you are describing a patient’s symptoms, you may use passive voice to keep the focus on the patient. But when you use passive voice, it can sometimes be unclear what is going on when you are describing treatment—who performed it?


3. Keep in mind that your writing forms a legal record. Your writing is the record of treatment and care that a patient has received. Give the most precise information possible in these situations, to assist yourself and your hospital in case of legal challenges.


4. Make chart comments actionable and specific. Your comments should describe or recommend specific actions. If involving dosages, give a measurable amount.


5. Avoid personal, editorial observations when describing patients. You’ll often have to describe patient symptoms, which may include behavior. Be as objective as possible in doing so. This will help others offer an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. If a patient is behaving oddly, note the exact behaviors committed.


6. Chronological order helps readers understand case studies and histories. Many patients suffer from a variety of symptoms, both physical and mental. While the temptation in case studies and histories is to focus on the most important symptoms and events, keep a full and chronological record of the symptoms so that everyone can interpret whether and how the symptoms might be related.


7. Specificity is also necessary for describing nursing theories. When describing a theory or philosophy of nursing, illustrate how the general ideas powering the theory can be turned into actions. Many nursing theories concentrate on the nature of care and its effects, but these theories also advise nurses how to best express care through particular activities.