How to Write a Descriptive Essay Outline

Nursing students must often write descriptive essays about their clinical experiences, observations, or a specific medical procedure. Developing strong essay-writing skills is important in nursing education and will serve you well in your future nursing career. This article will explore some key elements of structure, style, and content for writing an effective nursing essay in a descriptive format.

What is a Descriptive Essay Outline?

This is a structured way of organizing and presenting information in an essay primarily focused on describing a nursing-related descriptive essay topic, subject, or situation. This format is commonly used in nursing education and healthcare to encourage students and professionals to develop strong observational and descriptive skills. It helps readers understand clearly and vividly the topic being discussed.

Overview of the Descriptive Essay Format

A descriptive essay allows you to paint a vivid picture for your reader using careful observations and details. The goal is to transport your audience into the scene you are describing by engaging their senses. When writing a descriptive nursing essay, you must focus on accurately and thoroughly describing a person, place, object, experience, or procedure.

Some key qualities of a strong descriptive nursing essay include:

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  • Rich sensory details (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) to create a dynamic scene
  • Precise and insightful observations
  • Clear organization and logical flow of ideas
  • Appropriate vocabulary to convey your message
  • A perspective or theme to tie ideas together
  • Your unique personal voice as the narrator

Thoughtful description and attention to detail are essential to drawing your readers into your essay and giving them a meaningful perspective on your topic.

Structuring a Descriptive Nursing Essay

While descriptive essays allow creativity in painting a picture with words, they still require structure and organization. Here are some tips on structuring a descriptive nursing essay:


Key elements of a descriptive essay introduction include:

  • Begin with a vivid hook to capture your reader’s attention right away. This can be an interesting fact, statistic, question, or personal anecdote.
  • Provide the necessary background context for understanding the specifics to follow. Give relevant details about the patient, clinical setting, or procedure.
  • End your introductory paragraph with a clear descriptive essay thesis or focus statement that previews your main points.

Body Paragraphs

Key elements of a descriptive essay body include:

  • Organize your essay logically, either chronologically or spatially. Chronological organization follows the sequence of events. Spatial organization describes different parts of a scene or process.
  • Use transition words and phrases to guide your reader smoothly from one detail to the next. For example, words like “first,” “next,” “meanwhile,” “adjacent to” etc.
  • Make your descriptions vivid and specific using all five senses. The best details are selective and purposeful to paint a scene.
  • Use strong verbs and precise nouns/adjectives to add color to your writing.
  • Vary your sentence structure and avoid too many short, choppy sentences.


Key elements of a descriptive essay conclusion include:

  • Synthesize your main ideas and details without introducing new information.
  • Reflect on the event’s significance or describe what was learned or gained.
  • Provide closure for your readers so they understand the essay’s main focus.

Descriptive Writing Style Tips

Your writing style and command of language are key to an engaging descriptive essay. Here are some tips:

  • Employ figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and personification to add richness to your descriptions.
  • Use all five senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch – to make your descriptions come alive.
  • Focus on showing rather than telling. Rely more on vivid sensory details rather than direct statements.
  • Be consistent in your perspective and choice of point of view. First-person perspective allows intimacy.
  • Leverage hyperbole or exaggeration sparingly for emphasis.
  • Use active voice and strong action verbs when suitable. Passive voice has its occasional place too.
  • Vary your vocabulary. Use specific nouns and modifiers for precision and interesting word choice.

Descriptive Essay Outline Example 

Here is a descriptive essay example illustrating how you can format your essay:

A Day in the Life of a Pediatric Nurse


A pediatric nurse's role is vital in providing care and support to children and their families. This essay will describe a typical day in the life of a pediatric nurse, focusing on the duties, challenges, and rewards of this nursing specialty. 

Description: A pediatric nurse's day starts early, often with a briefing on the patients' conditions and any updates from the previous shift. The morning rounds involve visiting each child's room, assessing vital signs, and addressing immediate needs. These young patients range from newborns to teenagers, each with unique care requirements. 

In a pediatric ward, the atmosphere is often filled with a mix of emotions, from laughter to tears. It's crucial for nurses to create a comforting and child-friendly environment. Nurses play games with children, offer distractions during painful procedures, and provide emotional support to both the child and their anxious parents. 

Throughout the day, pediatric nurses administer medications, monitor intravenous lines, and coordinate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, respiratory therapists, and child life specialists. Effective communication is key in ensuring that the child's care is well-coordinated.

One of the main challenges pediatric nurses face is the unpredictability of a child's response to treatment. A child's condition can deteriorate rapidly, requiring immediate action. Nurses must remain calm under pressure and make quick decisions in such situations. 

Use of Nursing Terminology: In managing pediatric patients, nurses often encounter terms like "pediatric dosages," "growth and development milestones," and "child-friendly interventions." Understanding and correctly utilizing this terminology is essential in providing safe and effective care. 

Relevant Data and Observations: Accurate documentation is crucial in pediatric nursing. This includes recording vital signs, medication administration, intake and output, and any changes in the child's condition. The data collected serves as a valuable resource for the healthcare team in making clinical decisions. 

Personal Reflection: Working as a pediatric nurse is incredibly rewarding. While the challenges can be demanding, the joy of seeing a sick child recover and the gratitude of parents is immeasurable. Every day brings a new opportunity to make a positive impact on a child's life. 

Conclusion: A day in the life of a pediatric nurse is a whirlwind of activity, compassion, and clinical expertise. The role is both challenging and deeply fulfilling, as nurses strive to provide the best possible care for their young patients and support for their families. 

Descriptive Essay Format: Final Thoughts

Writing descriptive nursing essays gives you a chance to practice communicating important experiences from your clinical training. Following the strategies for structure, style, and content presented in this article will help you craft an immersive essay.

Descriptive writing allows you to build valuable skills in observing patient scenarios and settings closely while developing your distinct voice on paper. Practicing this genre during nursing school prepares you to document care thoroughly and precisely as a professional nurse.

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