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NCLEX Review: What is ADPIE & The Nursing Process?

Learn about ADPIE, the acronym for the Nursing Process

ADPIE is an acronym that stands for Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. These are the steps of the nursing process, which are chiefly the steps to providing proper care to your patient. Most importantly, the nursing process (ADPIE) is one of the ultimate things you’ll be expected to learn and master in nursing school, and for that matter, as a future nurse!

The Nursing Process: ADPIE

ADPIE, or in other words, the nursing process, is a huge staple in the nursing world. It is vital that you have a strong foundation of it in order to be a successful future nurse, so that’s why we’re here to break it down for you. The nursing process does involve a lot of critical thinking skills, and since many nursing test questions are based on this concept, it’ll make your whole life easier once you understand it for good!

Now remember; the acronym ADPIE stands for:

  • Assessment
  • Diagnosis
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Interestingly, the funny thing is that we actually use ADPIE in everyday situations without even realizing it. Once you see how simple it is to think about, it will be easier to break it down during your exams. Let’s take a non-nursing example here to show you what we mean.


ADPIE AssessmentYou wake up on Monday morning after a late night of studying for your nursing exam, and you know that you’re going to need an extra big cup of coffee. Because it took a little longer to brew, you’re running 10 minutes late to class. You pour that delicious, warm drink into your thermos, frantically throw it in your backpack, and book it to school. When you finally make it to class, you grab your computer out of your bag and open it up, but it won’t turn on. What do you do first?

Well, first, you’re going to assess the situation (the “A” in ADPIE).

Why isn’t the computer turning on? Why is it all wet? And why is your thermos empty and everything smells like coffee?

At this stage, you are playing detective and strictly gathering data. Similarly, in nursing, this would be the stage when you first go in to see your patient, the beginning of the assessmen, where we collect all the data about the patient, both objective and subjective.

In this case, these would be things like your first impression and vitals. What does the patient look like? Is their skin pale? Are they groaning in pain? Are their vitals stable? Is their breathing labored? Are they angry, scared, confused or delirious? Do they have a history of heart problems? What kind of medication are they taking?

These are all observations and data collection that you would take into account when doing an assessment on a patient. As the first step in the process, gathering all this information will allow you to proceed with the next step: your nursing diagnosis.


ADPIE DiagnosisNow the “D” in ADPIE stands for diagnosis, and that brings us to our next step after gathering that data that we were just presented with.

Well,” you say to yourself, “it seems to me from all my evidence here, that my coffee must’ve leaked out onto my computer, and therefore my computer is not working because it has gotten soaked with coffee!” Good deduction, detective!

So just like that, in our clinical assessment, we make a nursing diagnosis, where we identify actual or potential medical /health risks. The nursing diagnosis is developed by NANDA and should be prioritized based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This diagnosis is key to the next step in the process: making a care plan.


ADPIE PlanningNow that brings us to “P” in the acronym, which stands for planning.

When you look at your computer and have figured out the cause, you now have to make a quick plan. What are you going to do to fix the problem? You decide here that you need to run to get this computer fixed by a professional. “Let’s see,” you think, “I have to call to see if the store is open, make an appointment, find out if my computer was backed up, leave school, take the bus to 33rd street, walk two blocks…”

When we apply that to nursing, we make a plan based on the assessment and nursing diagnosis of our patient. You would then set SMART goals, which is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely short-and long-term goals for the patient. From here, we can move on to the implementation part of the process.


ADPIE ImplementationNext comes the “I” in ADPIE; the implementation portion of the process.
Implementation is the action part of your plan; where you actually get up and bolt to the computer store to fix this, fast!

Notice here the difference between the planning stage and the implementation stage. In the planning stage, you are simply forming the plan. The implementation stage is where you act on that specific plan.

Similarly, when we take this back into nursing, this is where we implement our plan for our patient. As the action portion of the process, this is where our plans are carried out. Implementation is the step where we finally intervene to help them, like physically giving drugs, educate, monitor, etc. After this step, we must evaluate the outcome.


ADPIE EvaluationAnd finally, we evaluate; the “E” in the ADPIE nursing process.

As the final step, you are done carrying out your plan, and here’s where you are waiting anxiously at the computer store, and the person helping you comes out to tell you, “Well my friend, it’s your lucky day. It was almost too late, but we saved your computer and it works like it’s brand new again. Now, remember, keep liquids far away!”


This would be where you ask yourself as a nurse, were we successful in making in meeting the desired outcome? Did the plan work or is it in the process of being successful?

If goals were not met, we need to reassess and begin the process over, noting why the goals weren’t met, and make changes to the new plan of care to make sure new goals will be completed.

The Nursing Process and Exam Questions

The nursing process is very relevant in nursing exams, as well as the NCLEX®. Have you ever been stuck on a question in a test, wondering which answer to choose because they all look correct? Well, a good tip to keep in mind is that many exam questions are actually just asking you to identify a part of the nursing process!

Remember, assessments are always the first step in the process. Interventions should not be implemented, the fourth step, until an assessment has been done. Burn this into your brain for those exams when you are asked about priorities! This is a common mistake. You wouldn’t run to the computer store the first moment your computer didn’t turn on without doing some detective work, right? Just like you don’t give your patient medication before you find out what’s really going on.

How to Identify The Nursing Process Questions

When you come to a question that makes you feel stumped, look for some keywords to make you realize the exam is asking you an assessment question, which might be: Assess, collect, determine, gather, identify, observe, do first, etc. If words like these are in the question, you most likely want to look at answers that involve an assessment of the patient.

Some keywords that will trigger you to think the exam is asking you an implementation or intervention question might be: Action, next, implement, intervention, etc. If words like these are in the question, you most likely want to look at answers that involve an intervention.

Words such as evaluation and interpretation in the question should make you think – you guessed it – that you should be choosing an evaluation option as the answer.

Now don’t forget, when you come upon these types of questions in exams, take a breath, read and reread the entire question. After that, ask yourself, “Which part of the nursing process is this question asking me?”

See how understanding how the nursing process can help you with those tricky questions? You just gotta break it down!

Remember, you have to get the nursing process down as a fundamental concept in order to build your critical thinking skills to not only pass your exams, but to also become a great nurse, so make sure you understand it!

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