Patricia McClune-Trust – Poster Teaser

Using metaphor to make sense of pathophysiology with undergraduate nursing students


Undergraduate nursing students sometimes find it challenging to understand the abstract scientific concepts that underpin clinical reasoning. Making links between theory and practice in this context requires something more to connect students’ understanding.


Metaphor is a conceptual tool that helps people to make sense of relationships between seemingly disparate or contrasting ideas. In creating an association between an abstract concept in relation to a more concrete and easily understood idea, metaphors build an interpretive ‘bridge’ to understanding and practical application. It turns abstract concepts into a more embodied form of knowing, creating an ‘experiential’ connection that allows students to imagine scientific concepts in relation to everyday life experiences.


This poster will present an analysis of everyday teaching moments with undergraduate nursing students, where a lecturer uses metaphor as a bridge to understanding pathophysiology. The ‘bridge’ is a metaphor using the idea of traffic congestion in Hamilton City to explain congestive heart failure. Traffic congestion is a problem particularly around the South-East area of the city that contains the university, high schools, and primary and a middle school, and provides a major thoroughfare through the city.


Students driving to class experience traffic congestion, which occurs frequently, making the commute slow and difficult. Various locations on the route are identified as anatomical locations and the causes and effects of congestive heart failure can be interpreted in relation to what happens when the traffic slows. Traffic backs up, the roundabouts are clogged, so there are backwards and forwards flow effects of Congestive Heart Failure.

Key words: pathophysiology, nursing students, metaphor, experiential learning, congestive heart failure