When reading the American version of the ICNP®-handbook, it is striking that the majority
of terms remain the same, repeat themselves, and are not replaced by synonyms in the
There is a logic behind this system: hyponyms and hypernyms, as well as related terms
are instantly recognizable – even at first glance, in the case of the online handbook. In order to
establish a semantic relation (which is irrevocably the purpose of the ICNP®-Index), we had
to bear in mind with the English-German translation of the handbook that not only the
meaning of the translated term would not be altered, but also that the exact same term would
be used in other entries as well. We often encountered difficulties in having the term make
sense in the various different entries.
For instance, translating “supporting” with “Betreuung,” as one of our colleagues has
done, is inappropriate since a) “Betreuung” is a noun and b) “supporting”/“unterstützen” is
used repeatedly within the hierarchy: The definition of “vertreten/befürworten” is translated
as “Unterstützen mit spezifischen Merkmalen: etwas oder jemanden durch Argumente
empfehlen.” For this definition, “betreuen” is the inappropriate hypernym.
“Betreuen” is better used to translate the term “attending”
With the ICNP® handbook we are operating in the realm of biology (in the farthest sense).
Therefore, the biological taxonomy, which is structured hierarchically, is applicable. Our
terms are thus structured in levels (and follow a logic similar to the familiar taxons Regnum,
Subregnum, Phylum, Subphylum, Classis, etc.). Had we built on a purely linguistic taxonomy,
we would have various groups of terms, but no clearly defined hierarchical structure.
We saw another advantage in using a biological taxonomy methodology in the fact that the
ICNP® handbook is available digitally and online over the internet. The online handbook has
hypertextual features: when searching for a term, all entries in which this term in mentioned,
appear. Hyponyms are listed: If one searches for the term “Schock,” the terms
“Anaphylaktischer Schock” and “Neurogener Schock” appear as so-called “Kinder-Terme”
(“child-terms”). This is not a hypertext per se – one cannot click on any term within another
term’s definition and be forwarded to this term’s definition. Nevertheless, a net-like structure
is formed through logical connections.
The taxonomical classification method is frequently criticized for its nomenclature and
requires more fundamental discussion. Since medicine is an ever developing discipline, such
discussions are not our job.
Taxonomy is also criticized for the arbitrariness of the categorizations when they are
separated from their cultural environment – therefore, taxonomy is not universally applicable.
ICNP® does not lay claim to universality – on the contrary, we were careful in our translation
to include region-specific terms and vocabulary. Austrian terms can and should differ from
Swiss terms, since the goal was for the users of the given country to optimally understand the
classification. We were careful to use both scientific terms as well as terms frequently used by
Austrian nurses. The two terms are separated by a slash (e.g., “niedriger Blutdruck/
Preposition to the translation of ICNP® Version 1.0 from English into German, September