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Case Study Methodology to Improve Critical Thinking and Diagnosis in Nursing

November 17, 2023

If you are a nursing professor, a great way to improve learning outcomes with your students is to incorporate case studies into your lessons. As you provide more information in class about the concepts, students can start to see data and convert that data into information, which can be critically important as they learn to become diagnosticians. 

Begin with very basic cases that cover the core elements or concepts that you are teaching. These clinical case studies begin in the classroom, move into the simulation lab, and then are used again in clinicals to improve your students’ learning. 

Case Study Examples

The case study in the classroom can be around breathing patterns, pain responses, or coping responses, for example. Start with a very basic case that has some obvious signs and symptoms and related factors for the diagnoses that you want students to learn. This allows students to identify data, convert it to information, and begin to consider diagnoses that may represent the patterns in that information.

As students learn more about the concept, you can make the cases more and more difficult. Add in some additional variables such as diagnostic tests and more signs/symptoms, and don’t forget some conflicting information – “red herrings” – to help teach students how to decipher what data are important and what data may not be relevant for diagnosis. 

Why Use Case Studies

When we use cases in the safe space of the classroom or simulation lab, students can get comfortable with making errors in their clinical reasoning. They will also learn where they’re making those errors and begin to focus on improvement. Students learn to ask more questions, collect additional data when necessary, and also learn how to spot patterns in the data. Hopefully, they also get comfortable asking questions of one another, exchanging ideas, and seeking support when necessary.

Have you considered case study methodology in your curriculum? If so, what works? What doesn’t? We’d love to hear from you!

Categorized in: Diagnosis Development, General, Informatics, NANDA Foundation


  • Marlon Bernardo says:

    I have taken over a module in which I had to revise its assessment task from an OSCE to a case study examination (to be implemented in April). I have integrated and emphasised the utility of NANDA-I nursing diagnosis to support my students in developing their clinical reasoning abilities. I am excited to use case studies in this module.

  • Tamanna kanon says:

    Case study is excellent

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