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Progress notes, also known as nursing notes, play a vital role in documenting care in long-term care facilities by supporting the ongoing care of residents. They are usually documented in the senior care software to record a resident’s medical history, nurse observations, and all interactions between nurses and residents. 

Two physicians are discussing a resident's progress notes.
Progress notes support the ongoing care of residents.

Progress notes typically include the following information on resident care:

  • Date and time
  • Resident’s name
  • Caregiver’s name and signature
  • Clinical assessment, including vital signs, pain levels, and test results
  • Details of any incidents
  • Changes in behavior, emotional state, or well-being
  • Changes in the care provided
  • Follow-up instructions for further care

Besides tracking a resident’s medical history and care, progress notes can also be used as legal documentation, which is submitted as evidence during any legal proceedings. So all documentation must be factual, professional, and objective. It must also use proper spelling, grammar, and medical terminology to minimize confusion. 

Another purpose for documenting progress notes is to ensure the continuity of care between team members, especially during shift changes. Accurate documentation ensures that all caregivers have the most up-to-date information on residents, allowing them to monitor and maintain a high standard of care. 

Progress notes also impact the facility’s bottom line; the same documentation is used for PDPM reimbursement purposes as well as private insurance claims. So caregivers must input accurate data to ensure they receive reimbursement.

Common types of progress notes

It’s worth noting that there are several types of progress notes used to highlight vital clinical data. Some common types of progress notes include: 

  • Focused DAR (Data, Action, Response) notes: This type of documentation is commonly used with charting to provide nurses with reference points on specific problems, making them brief and concise. They also allow nurses to evaluate a resident’s health more holistically while tracking their improvements across time, making for high-quality assessments. 
  • DAP (Data, Assessment, Plan) notes: DAP nursing notes are used to interpret resident progress observations. The caregiver can then create an appropriate plan for future treatment by assessing a resident’s progress.
  • Narrative notes: This form of documentation typically records assessment findings and nursing activities for a resident during a caregiver’s shift. Narrative notes provide accurate information on what care is provided, changes in resident conditions, and other relevant information that helps the clinical team to provide safe and efficient care. 
  • SOAP notes: These notes are written by clinical caregivers, like nurses, who are given a specific framework to evaluate clinical information. SOAP notes guide nurses to assess, diagnose, and treat residents using clinical reasoning and accurate data. SOAP notes also provide essential information regarding a resident’s health status while ensuring structured communication between caregivers. They are usually sorted into six categories:
    • Subjective
    • Objective
    • Assessment
    • Plan
    • Interventions
    • Evaluation
  • BIRP (Behavior, Intervention, Response, Plan) notes: These notes are similar to SOAP notes, but they include the caregiver’s observations and an actionable plan to help residents reach their treatment goals. BIRP notes strongly focus on interventions with residents during a therapy session and how they respond to interventions. 

By using a combination of progress notes to document care, caregivers can rest easy knowing that they have the most up-to-date clinical information, thus, allowing them to provide high-quality, safe, and efficient care to residents.   

How To Write Progress Notes 

Now that we have a better understanding of nursing documentation notes, we can explore how to write progress notes. Writing progress notes enables caregivers to provide a high standard of care and provide legal evidence when needed. Therefore, to ensure that the documentation is accurate, there are some actions caregivers can take, which start with understanding the four core elements of writing progress notes

A nurse implementing what she has learned about how to write progress notes.
Understanding how to write progress notes starts with knowing what resources are available.
  • Objectiveness: Caregivers must use critical thinking to analyze, assess, and reconstruct the situation. Therefore, they must consider the facts and understand how they impact the resident’s personalized care plan. It is essential to write down everything that was heard, seen, witnessed, caused, and initiated.
  • Conciseness: Caregivers have busy schedules, which means caregivers must use as few words as possible to convey the message.
  • Relevance: Caregivers need to be able to draw conclusions based on the facts when they read progress notes. Therefore, progress notes must be consistently-documented and relevant to the care provided. 
  • Well-written: As mentioned earlier, caregivers must also use proper sentence structure and spelling. In the case of handwritten progress notes, caregivers must ensure the notes are legible, as failure to do so can result in adverse resident outcomes. 

There are also several online resources that caregivers can read to better understand the importance of nursing notes, how to write them, and how to follow the correct protocol, such as the CMS RAI Version 2.0 Manual, which mentions in detail the written documentation to be included and provides several helpful examples of clinical progress notes. 

It is also important to look at the documentation requirements for each state. For instance, in Virginia, caregivers can read this page to learn how a resident’s medical record should be maintained and what must be included for accurate documentation. Caregivers in Texas can turn to this documentation guideline for nurses to know exactly what is required of them and view helpful examples that give nurses context and support, so they can write more accurate reports and progress notes.  

Contact us here to use our long-term care software to improve your nursing documentation processes.

3 Benefits of Using Electronic Progress Notes in Long-term Care

As mentioned earlier, previously, progress notes were written by hand, which caused problems with legibility. This paved the way for elder care software, which improved communication between caregivers using electronic progress notes with documentation efficiency and accuracy.  

Seeing the advantages of moving from paper to electronic, long-term care software vendors have zeroed in on providing effective software programs with enhanced functionality that make documentation more accessible and efficient. In particular, there are three areas in which nursing home software significantly improves nursing note processes:

  1. Easy access to resident information 

Using the connected portable devices that are synced with long-term care EHR software, caregivers can access resident notes anytime and anywhere, thus improving workflow efficiency. 

Additionally, digitizing resident notes means that caregivers no longer need to sift through piles of paperwork. Instead, they can view multiple progress notes whenever they want and in chronological order, saving them time and stress. 

Caregivers can also find specific notes more quickly for particular residents because the notes can be filtered and categorized according to a resident’s name and ID, allowing for easy retrieval and reporting. 

  1. Automatic data import between care plan and therapy notes

Therapists often contemplate how to write better therapy progress notes. The answer is simple: use a long-term care EHR with electronic interdisciplinary progress notes. Electronic notes allow caregivers and therapists to link progress notes with resident care plans. Thus, when therapists add notes to a resident care plan, they are automatically imported to the progress notes, making them accessible to all authorized staff. 

  1. Enhanced protection of electronic health records

Advanced long-term care software programs can protect resident records from being edited or deleted. This means that once a progress note is entered and saved, it cannot be tampered with. If a correction note is needed, caregivers can add an attachment note to the original progress note, showing the correction. This safeguards the facility from any caregiver misconduct while ensuring that caregivers provide high-quality care at all times. 

Due to the high importance of writing accurate nursing notes, facilities should organize training sessions on how to write progress notes and provide how to write progress notes examples for their caregivers. This will benefit the staff by increasing their competence in writing accurate notes. Furthermore, this will minimize errors while strengthening the team’s confidence in each other, knowing they can rely on their colleagues to write accurate progress notes that will not impede their quality of care. 

Improving Progress Notes by Investing in Elder Care Software

A nurse is using a tablet to look at the electronic progress notes for a resident.
Electronic progress notes improve documentation efficiency and accuracy.

Progress notes provide a record of every clinical event related to a resident, from diagnosis to treatment. They serve as medical facts and the documentation of clinical thinking so caregivers can concisely communicate with each other about a resident’s condition. 

For this reason, facilities must provide the appropriate equipment for caregivers to maximize accuracy and efficiency. And the best way to do this is through an effective elder care software system that can input, store, and access progress notes quickly, so improving workflow efficiency. 

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Cindy Wong