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Case study report for nursing


Part 1: What is it and why?

This video introduces the concept of the case study and identifies how case studies differ to other written assignments.

The most important thing in writing up a case study report is that first, second, and thirdly: It is about the patient, not the condition nor the treatment. Students often put the emphasis on the condition or the treatment because the question usually focuses on this. While you need to explore these things, you still have to bring it back to the patient, and keep the patient central to the whole assignment.

We can understand if busy medical professionals start to see their patients in terms of a condition to be fixed, or a procedure to be performed. But ideally, we should remember that a patient is a person with a complex array of needs and preferences. This means that a simple textbook answer is not always best for them.

In your career, you will need to negotiate adjustments and anticipate problems particular to the patient. It does not make sense to discuss a condition in isolation from the individual. Each patient has their own unique kaleidoscope of history, personality type, fears, medical challenges, needs during recovery, so forth and so on. You need to see their condition or their treatment overall, as part of the whole person. Writing a case study teaches you to do that, if you don’t explore the condition or treatment as part of a holistic system, you case study becomes theoretical, it becomes another essay.

Let’s compare the case study to the essays you might have already written. The case study in nursing explores a particular patient’s situation, while your essays will more likely have focused on disease, a treatment, a concept, or a system. A case study is very grounded in the real and the now, even if the patient is a hypothetical invention. It still provides some fairly authentic experience with dealing with an individual patient.

Essays, on the other hand, tend to be literature-based. Of course, you need to do a lot of research and reading for your case study too, but the difference is for a case study you must always view and evaluate the information in the context of your patient. So in a case study, you need to show that you can find and apply information to you patient. For an essay you need to look at the information itself, pull it apart and evaluate it for its own sake.

So even if the question looks like an essay, don’t be distracted. There is still an expectation to relate this to the patient. It is possible to explore the content and theory in a generalised way throughout the assignment, but the beginning of the assignment (and the beginning of each paragraph, in fact) should foreground you're patient and their relationship to this theory.

Part 2: Research and writing

This video provides tips on how to research and structure paragraphs in order to keep a patient centred emphasis in the writing.

An essay, as opposed to a case study, usually has an question or a thesis which defines the boundaries of what you research, You aim to keep it within those parameters. and you delve as deeply as you can into the material. It loses focus if you include stuff outside of the topic. 

With a case study, however, your focus is the patient so you need to cast your net widely and generously at first to find something that is relevant to them. And then when you find something relevant, you need to research deeply. So, doing a good case study report involves a lot more reading than you might think. You’ll have to research both generally and deeply.

There can be a lot of research, and fairly unguided research involved in a case study. Don’t assume it’s like a reading comprehension exercise, the problems are not always clearly defined and the solutions have not necessarily been covered in lectures. Think of your case study as a mystery puzzle with a few clues scattered through it. 

In reality, patients do not arrive with instructions, so it’s up to the professional to notice that it is obvious and to think outside of the box. It is up to you to anticipate problems for the patient, it is up to you to follow through with the threads of any clues, and to see if they offer any valuable information, and these may only be hinted at indirectly. With years of nursing experience, the clues and danger signs get easier to spot, but it is very challenging for a beginner if you don’t know what to look for, and that is why the broad reading is important. 

So, every piece of information about your patient is valuable. When the information is given in the assignment, the facts are not random facts, they have usually been included for a reason, so use them and use them as much as you can. You may, on the other hand, have been told very little in the assignment and be expected to elicit the information yourself from the patient, through a blog, or a question-and-answer session. Asking for more details about their own condition just gives you more details about their condition, and unless you have some reasoning in mind for asking about that, more details per se is usually not that very helpful. 

Instead, ask about things that may affect the treatment or recovery; ask about things that may complicate matters. Smoking, relevant illnesses, lack of family support, strenuous lifestyles or jobs are all factors that may generate important decisions about how the patient is treated or cared for. The secret to keeping it about the patient is to keep them foremost into the discussion. You do this by making them the subject of each paragraph, and you do this by making them feature in the topic sentence: at the beginning and, if possible, a summary sentence at the end. 

In the middle of a paragraph, you have more flexibility to talk about the procedure or the condition in a more general way. But, at the end of the day, you need to remind us of how this is important for your patient. If you don’t, your writing becomes an essay rather than a case study. And if you feel like you’re being asked to research and to discuss material that is not directly relevant to your patient, you can make it relevant by at least explaining why it is not relevant. Remember, everything you write about should be in relation to your patient. 

So remember, it is all about the patient, keep everything relevant to the patient; keep the patient in mind throughout the research and the writing. Explore and discuss what the question requires, but theory for the sake of theory should be avoided. Your mission is to find the best solutions available for your patient, and develop the best understanding that you can of your patient. 

You have now complete the Case Study module. We hope you have enjoyed the content. For more study skill resources, please visit the RMIT Learning Lab.