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The term "nursing diagnosis" refers to items on the NANDA list of approved diagnoses, such as anxiety. The term "nursing diagnostic statement" refers to the approved or accepted way in which a nursing diagnosis is written in practice. Gordon identifies three structural components of a nursing diagnostic statement: the problem, the etiology (cause), and the signs and symptoms. An example of a nursing diagnostic statement would read, "Anxiety related to hospitalization as evidenced by verbal comments, and increased heart rate." When writing an "at-risk" nursing diagnostic statement, the signs and symptoms are replaced by the list of risk factors present for a particular response.

Nursing diagnoses may be made for an individual, a family, or a community. An example of a family nursing diagnosis is "risk for altered parent-infant attachment." The nursing diagnostic statement in this case might read, "risk for altered parent-infant attachment related to maternal distancing as evidenced by lack of eye contact between mother and infant." "Management of therapeutic regimen, ineffective: community," is an example of a nursing diagnosis for a community. The nursing diagnostic statement in this case may read, "Management of therapeutic regimen related to prevention of teen pregnancy, ineffective in the community, as evidenced by higher rate of teen pregnancy than surrounding communities."

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