The purpose of this exploratory study was to describe the dimensions of 17 nursing care episodes as perceived by nurses. The episodes represented recurrent nursing care situations in the postoperative period. Nineteen nurses judged the dissimilarity of all possible pairs of the episodes. An additional 14 nurses rated each episode on 10 attribute scales. Multidimensional scaling (MDS), was used to analyze nurses’ dissimilarity judgments. A three-dimensional MDS configuration, which accounted for 51% of the variance of nurses’ optimally scaled data, was chosen to describe the structure of the episodes. To interpret the dimensions of the MDS configuration objectively, multiple regression was used to correlate the attributes, one at a time, with the coordinates of the episodes in the configuration. The dimensions of the MDS configuration were interpreted as (a) the degree of independence patients could achieve in the episodes, (b) the nursing knowledge or skill needed in the episodes, and (c) the degree to which nurses could individualize the episodes for patients. Information obtained from the MDS analysis can be used to help nurses (a) explicitly evaluate and communicate their expectations for patients regarding activities to promote independence and (b) better articulate the specialized knowledge and skills needed to provide nursing care.
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