Graduation Date

Spring 4-24-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School Name

The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston

Advisory Committee

James Turley, Ph.D.


Distributed cognition; Personally-Created-Cognitive-Artifacts; nursing


Manuscript 1: “Conceptual Analysis: Externalizing Nursing Knowledge”

We use concept analysis to establish that the report tool nurses prepare, carry, reference, amend, and use as a temporary data repository are examples of cognitive artifacts. This tool, integrally woven throughout the work and practice of nurses, is important to cognition and clinical decision-making. Establishing the tool as a cognitive artifact will support new dimensions of study. Such studies can characterize how this report tool supports cognition, internal representation of knowledge and skills, and external representation of knowledge of the nurse.

Manuscript 2: “Research Methods: Exploring Cognitive Work”

The purpose of this paper is to describe a complex, cross-sectional, multi-method approach to study of personal cognitive artifacts in the clinical environment. The complex data arrays present in these cognitive artifacts warrant the use of multiple methods of data collection. Use of a less robust research design may result in an incomplete understanding of the meaning, value, content, and relationships between personal cognitive artifacts in the clinical environment and the cognitive work of the user.

Manuscript 3: “Making the Cognitive Work of Registered Nurses Visible”

Purpose: Knowledge representations and structures are created and used by registered nurses to guide patient care. Understanding is limited regarding how these knowledge representations, or cognitive artifacts, contribute to working memory, prioritization, organization, cognition, and decision-making. The purpose of this study was to identify and characterize the role a specific cognitive artifact knowledge representation and structure as it contributed to the cognitive work of the registered nurse. Methods: Data collection was completed, using qualitative research methods, by shadowing and interviewing 25 registered nurses. Data analysis employed triangulation and iterative analytic processes. Results: Nurse cognitive artifacts support recall, data evaluation, decision-making, organization, and prioritization. These cognitive artifacts demonstrated spatial, longitudinal, chronologic, visual, and personal cues to support the cognitive work of nurses. Conclusions: Nurse cognitive artifacts are an important adjunct to the cognitive work of nurses, and directly support patient care. Nurses need to be able to configure their cognitive artifact in ways that are meaningful and support their internal knowledge representations.


Student submitted file does not include the second manuscript.