Determining sources for formal nursing terminology systems

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. The purpose of this study is to assess the relative merits of aspects—labels or informal definitions—of traditional nursing terminology systems as the foundational sources for target formal nursing terminology systems.

Design. This study builds upon and compares the findings of two previous experiments in which formal terminology systems, one based on informal definitions, the other based on labels, were developed under the GALEN approach and used to generate hierarchies of nursing interventions drawn from the Nursing Interventions Classification.

Measurements. The two generated hierarchies were compared to see whether, and to what extent, they captured a test set of hierarchical relationships implicit within and derived from the Nursing Interventions Classification. An analysis of the relevant conceptual representations was carried out in those cases where a hierarchical relationship from the test set was absent from either of the generated hierarchies.

Results. The hierarchy generated from the formal terminology system based on informal definitions contained none of the test set of hierarchical relationships. Reasons included structural differences between conceptual representations; different levels of specificity; and deficiencies within the formal terminology system itself. The hierarchy generated from the formal terminology system based on labels contained all but one of the test set. The reason for the one absence was inconsistent usage within source and target.

Conclusions. While it may be possible to derive formal terminology systems from informal definitions for nursing interventions, the inherent complexity within those informal definitions brings into question the utility of such systems. This study demonstrates that it may be more productive to base formal nursing terminology systems on labels, simpler sources with limited discursive content and a higher degree of consistency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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