J Am Med Inform Assoc 7:539-549 doi:10.1136/jamia.2000.0070539
  • Focus on the Nursing Vocabulary Summit
  • Review

Embedded Structures and Representation of Nursing Knowledge

  1. Marcelline R Harris,
  2. Judith R Graves,
  3. Harold R Solbrig,
  4. Peter L Elkin,
  5. Christopher G Chute
  1. Affiliations of the authors: University of Minnesota, Rochester, Minnesota (MRH, CGC), Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library, Indianapolis, Indiana (JRG), May Foundation, Rochester (HRS, PLE)
  1. Correspondence and reprint requests: Marcelline R. Harris, RN, PhD, Mayo Foundation, Section of Medical Information Resources, Harwick 832, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905; e-mail: 〈harris.marcelline{at}
  • Received 14 March 2000
  • Accepted 27 June 2000


Nursing Vocabulary Summit participants were challenged to consider whether reference terminology and information models might be a way to move toward better capture of data in electronic medical records. A requirement of such reference models is fidelity to representations of domain knowledge. This article discusses embedded structures in three different approaches to organizing domain knowledge: scientific reasoning, expertise, and standardized nursing languages. The concept of pressure ulcer is presented as an example of the various ways lexical elements used in relation to a specific concept are organized across systems. Different approaches to structuring information—the clinical information system, minimum data sets, and standardized messaging formats—are similarly discussed. Recommendations include identification of the polyhierarchies and categorical structures required within a reference terminology, systematic evaluations of the extent to which structured information accurately and completely represents domain knowledge, and modifications or extensions to existing multidisciplinary efforts.


  • This work was supported in part by grant LM 07041-15 from the National Library of Medicine and by the Mayo Division of Nursing Research.

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