Nurse educators use case studies in the classroom to challenge students to consider, analyze and interpret clinical information about a patient's status and history and arrive at a diagnosis or course of action. Case studies challenge students to apply recently learned concepts and factual knowledge in a clinical context.
Nurse educators identify specific learning objectives, such as the identification of risk factors for anorexia, prior to selecting and presenting a case study. The case study introduces the patient, presenting his current situation and anything of importance leading up to his current condition. The presentation also includes clinical information such as blood pressure, blood test results and detailed history. The nurse educator asks specific questions regarding the case to stimulate discussion and analysis of the case and to target clinical considerations toward the learning objectives.
Case studies presented in a classroom setting enable nursing students to openly discuss and consider various approaches and opinions. This interchange further stimulates critical thinking as it challenges students to consider information from various perspectives, perhaps reaching an unexpected diagnostic conclusion with no risk to a real patient.
Research indicates that lecture-based nurse education results in somewhat higher exam scores. Researchers also note that students view the case study experience as motivational and relevant, providing an interactive learning experience in a safe environment and better equipping them for real-life nursing situations.