This is my experience. Documentation has changed over the years and is different in various locales. Early on there were Progress Notes for physicians and Nurses Notes for nurses. When I started nursing, we documented our narrative in the Nurses Notes. Physicians used the Progress Notes and used SOAP/IE format. Nurses charted SOAP notes in the Progress Notes when there was a very specific problem. I'm very partial to SOAP/IE notes.
A SOAP note might look something like this.
S: "My left knee hurts today."
O: Left knee, swollen, tender to touch... Walked around the unit for 30 minutes with steady gait this morning.
A: Your assessment
P: Your plan.
Later you would come back and document the evaluation. I'm guessing that SOAP/IE notes would be good for documenting nursing diagnoses, but today institutions may be other ways to do that.
On the other hand, a narrative is a chronological detailing of assessments and patient events, including the mundane ones. Lets say your shift starts at 0700. You may begin by documenting a head to toe assessment. Your narrative charting may resemble something like this.
Neuro: Mental status, neuro check, etc.
Cardiac: EKG rhythm, heart sounds, skin color and warmth, pulses, etc.
Respiratory: Lung sounds, breathing patterns, etc.
You would document the subjective findings in the corresponding system section.
At 0830, you patient may be finished with breakfast. You would document what/how much the patient ate and how well it was tolerated.
Then a family member might visit at 0930 and you would document that and how well the patient tolerated it.
Some hospitals eliminated Nurses Notes and so nurses documented their narrative in the Progress Notes. I remember some physicians were not happy about that. Traditional narrative gives many nurses a sense of security - and I do remember one nurse who swore it was her narrative documentation that saved her during a law suit.
Now nurses also utilize checklists, flowsheets, pathways, charting by exception and electronic medical records. Many nurses still do the narrative in addition to the other required documentation tools. Hope this helps. Others may have a different take on this.