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The planning phase of the nursing process helps nurses set priorities, outline patient-centered goals and expected outcomes, and tailor nursing interventions to align with the aligned care plan. Through the planning phase, the nurse applies critical thinking skills to align and develop interventions according to the patient's needs. It provides continuity of care allowing patients to receive the maximum benefit from treatment. It serves as a pilot plan for allocating individual staff to a particular patient.

The planning phase begins once the medical and nursing team confirms the patient's diagnosis and includes developing short and long-term goals. The focused planning phase should be distinct from comprehensive care planning, which starts from the patient's admission and continues after discharge.

The care plan involves three stages: initial, ongoing, and discharge planning. Initial planning is executed by the nurse who performs the admission assessment. It includes addressing all problems identified during the initial assessment and setting goals accordingly. A nurse updates the care plan to enhance communication, documentation, and continuity of care; failure to do so leads to a lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the plan. The nurses carry out ongoing planning before their shift. The on-going planning determines any changes in health status and decides which issue to focus on during their shift. Discharge planning includes anticipation of needs after discharge.

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