Knowledge Deficit Nursing Diagnosis & Care Plan


The words knowledge deficit surrounded by healthcare related vector images.

Definition: Insufficient or no awareness of necessary information or skill to attain or maintain a desired health status. 

This nursing diagnosis recognizes a patient’s need for guidance and information about a new medical condition.

Education about an illness or change in physical status is essential for the patient outcome and adjustment to his or her new situation. Without the necessary insight on how to manage a new condition, patient care is incomplete. 

Nurses have to consider the patient’s demographic, mental and physical condition, and limitations when developing a teaching plan. 

  • New health diagnosis or treatment 
  • Misinformation/misinterpretation 
  • Deficient resources to learn
  • Learning disability 
  • Disinterest/ lack of motivation 
  • Inadequate financial resources to follow the recommended treatment 
  • Emotionally unfit to learn 
  • Acute illness/condition 

Common Signs and Symptoms… (evidenced by)

  • Verbalizes problem
  • Compensates lack of knowledge with exaggerated behavior
  • Hostile behavior toward staff 
  • Verbalizes inaccurate information about condition/treatment 
  • Performs newly learned tasks inaccurately 

Expected Outcome 

  • Patient will perform newly learned tasks safely and correctly by discharge 
  • Patient will verbalize the accurate information about condition and treatment by discharge 
  • Patient will recognize when to seek help to learn new information by discharge 


Subjective data: patients might say…
“I don’t need your help. I have heard about this condition before. I know all about it” 
“I have no idea what the doctor is telling me. It is too much information.”

Objective data: you might observe the following on your assessment…The patient appears nervous and intimidated by his or her surroundings 
Patient is not asking any questions 
Patient avoids eye contact with staff members 
Patient interrupts staff to show off knowledge about condition 

Nursing Interventions for Knowledge Deficit

Assess current knowledge base about the new diagnosis

A baseline of the patient’s knowledge provides an excellent way to develop a starting point of a teaching plan without overwhelming the patient. This way, the nurse can clearly recognize which topics to address first.

Assess for readiness of learning new information about the illness 

Sudden changes in a person’s health and hospitalization are factors that affect the ability to absorb and process information. It is important to consider timing in the teaching process and adapt to the patient’s situation and their perception of that. 

Have the patient participate in the development of the teaching plan
Making decisions about the plan of care gives the patient a sense of autonomy. With the patient actively participating in the teaching plan, it is more likely to follow through.

Observe for possible barriers that might make learning more difficult 

Patients might have difficulty learning because of mental or physical handicaps or economic disadvantages such as literacy. This information allows for individualizing the care plan. 

Determine the patient’s learning style 

There are different ways to learn the same information. The learning style of your patient determines the use of specific teaching and learning materials to facilitate learning. 

Provide different learning material such as paper, demonstration or video 

As mentioned above, different learning materials will help your patient absorb information easier. Studying with various media and seeing the information in different ways makes it easier to retain information.

Encourage the patient to ask questions 

Questions allow the patient to participate in the learning process. It means that the patient is engaging in the material and shows interest in wanting to learn. By asking questions, the patient participates in his or her care and lets the healthcare team know what topics to address next.

Create a learning-friendly environment 

Unfamiliar environments and uncertainty about a new health diagnosis can be intimidating and discourage a patient from engaging in learning. Feeling welcomed helps the patient to open up and feel more comfortable. The patient will be more honest about his or her emotions and knowledge, which will provide a more effective teaching plan.

Provide time to process learned material and use a step by step approach 

Teaching too much material at once might overwhelm the patient and subsequently discourage the individual. A step by step approach allows for time to review the content and practice. It also provides for clarifying questions before moving on to the next step. 

Adjust pace, and teaching methods to the patient’s learning style 

If the patient is not receptive to the education plan and teaching methods, they should be adjusted and personalized. It will be easier for the patient to study information when taught in his or her learning style. The patient will be able to process information much easier and stay motivated to learn. 

Give praise and encouragement during learning sessions 

It is important to provide positive feedback while the patient performs the skills and during teaching sessions. Consistent, encouraging feedback keeps patients motivated and shows them that they are making progress. 

Inquire feedback about the learning process 

The most crucial part is that the patient understands the new situation and treatment. Therefore, it is critical to inquire about feedback regularly to make adjustments to personalize the plan of care further. 

Have the patient participate in the learning process with the teach-back method or return demonstration 

One effective method and precise way to know whether the patient understands the learned information is to demonstrate it and have the patient demonstrate the skill to the teacher. It is beneficial to have the patient perform the skill in an environment with immediate feedback for better learning. It also makes the patient feel more comfortable to have someone present to guide them throughout the learning process. 

Provide informational sources of learning material 

Being able to have resources to refer back to is crucial when it comes to retaining information. Having material available allows patients to study the information on their own time. 

Encourage the patient to talk to people that have similar experiences 

A sense of community gives patients hope that other people can live with the diagnosis or condition and motivates them to continue to educate themselves about the disease process. 

Involve the patient’s family in the learning process 

It is often beneficial when family and friends are involved in the care and, therefore, in the learning process. Having someone familiar present during challenging times provides a feeling of comfort for the patient.

More Care Plans:

Ineffective Health Maintenance [Care Plan]

Ineffective Breathing Pattern Nursing Diagnosis & Care Plan

Social Isolation [Care Plan]

Activity Intolerance Nursing Diagnosis & Care Plan

Imbalanced Nutrition: More Than Body Requirements

Readiness for Enhanced Nutrition

Obesity Nursing Diagnosis & Care Plan


Ackley, B., & Ladwig, G. (2014). Nursing diagnosis handbook (10th ed.). Maryland Heights: Mosby Elsevier.

Gulanick, M., & Myers, J. (2014). Nursing care plans (8th ed.). Elsevier.

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