Nursing assessment is the gathering of information about a patient's physiological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual status by a licensed Registered Nurse. Nursing assessment is the first step in the nursing process. A section of the nursing assessment may be delegated to certified nurses aides. Vitals and EKG's may be delegated to certified nurses aides or nursing techs. (Nurse Journal, 2017) It differs from a medical diagnosis. In some instances, the nursing assessment is very broad in scope and in other cases it may focus on one body system or mental health. Nursing assessment is used to identify current and future patient care needs. It incorporates the recognition of normal versus abnormal body physiology. Prompt recognition of pertinent changes along with the skill of critical thinking allows the nurse to identify and prioritize appropriate interventions. An assessment format may already be in place to be used at specific facilities and in specific circumstances.
Before assessment can begin the nurse must establish a professional and therapeutic mode of communication. This develops rapport and lays the foundation of a trusting, non-judgmental relationship. This will also assure that the person will be as comfortable as possible when revealing personal information. A common method of initiating therapeutic communication by the nurse is to have the nurse introduce herself or himself. The interview proceeds to asking the client how they wish to be addressed and the general nature of the topics that will be included in the interview.
The therapeutic communication methods of nursing assessment takes into account developmental stage (toddler vs. the elderly), privacy, distractions, age-related impediments to communication such as sensory deficits and language, place, time, non-verbal cues. Therapeutic communication is also facilitated by avoiding the use of medical jargon and instead using common terms used by the patient.
During the first part of the personal interview, the nurse carries out an analysis of the patient needs. In many cases, the client requires a focused assessment rather than a comprehensive nursing assessment of the entire bodily systems. In the focused assessment, the major complaint is assessed. The nurse may employ the use of acronyms performing the assessment:
The patient history and interview is considered to be subjective but still of high importance when combined with objective measurements. High quality interviewing strategies include the use of open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" response. If the person is unable to respond, then family or caregivers will be given the opportunity to answer the questions.
The typical nursing assessment in the clinical setting will be the collection of data about the following:
In addition, the nursing assessment may include reviewing the results of laboratory values such as blood work and urine analysis. Medical records of the client assist to determine the baseline measures related to their health.
In some instances, the nursing assessment will not incorporate the typical patient history and interview if prioritization indicates that immediate action is urgent to preserve the airway, breathing and circulation. This is also known as triage and is used in emergency rooms and medical team disaster response situations. The patient history is documented through a personal interview with the client and/or the client's family. If there is an urgent need for a focused assessment, the most obvious or troubling complaint will be addressed first. This is especially important in the case of extreme pain.
A nursing assessment includes a physical examination: the observation or measurement of signs, which can be observed or measured, or symptoms such as nausea or vertigo, which can be felt by the patient.
The techniques used may include inspection, palpation, auscultation and percussion in addition to the "vital signs" of temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate, and further examination of the body systems such as the cardiovascular or musculoskeletal systems.
The nurse conducts a neurovascular assessment to determine sensory and muscular function of the arms and legs in addition to peripheral circulation. The focused neurovascular assessment includes the objective observation of pulses, capillary refill, skin color and temperature, and sensation. During the neurovascular assessment the measures between extremities are compared. A neurovascular assessment is an evaluation of the extremities along with sensory, circulation and motor function.
During the assessment, interactions and functioning are evaluated and documented. Those specific items assessed include:
Pain is no longer being identified as the fifth vital sign due to the prevalence of opioid abuse and over-prescribing of narcotic pain relievers. However, assessment for pain is still very important. Assessment of a patient's experience of pain is a crucial component in providing effective pain management. Pain is not a simple sensation that can be easily assessed and measured. Nurses should be aware of the many factors that can influence the patient's overall experience and expression of pain, and these should be considered during the assessment process. Systematic process of pain assessment, measurement, and re-assessment (re-evaluation), enhances the healthcare teams' ability to achieve. Pain is assessed for its provocative and palliative associations; quality, region/radiation, severity (numerical scale or pictorial, Wong-Baker Faces scale); and time—of onset, duration, frequency, and length of provocative and relief measures.
The main areas considered in a psychological examination are intellectual health and emotional health. Assessment of cognitive function, checking for hallucinations and delusions, measuring concentration levels, and inquiring into the client's hobbies and interests constitute an intellectual health assessment. Emotional health is assessed by observing and inquiring about how the client feels and what he does in response to these feelings. The psychological examination may also include the client's perceptions (why they think they are being assessed or have been referred, what they hope to gain from the meeting). Religion and beliefs are also important areas to consider. The need for a physical health assessment is always included in any psychological examination to rule out structural damage or anomalies.
The nursing cultural assessment will identify factors that may impede or facilitate the implementation of a nursing diagnosis. Cultural factors have a major impact on the nursing assessment. Some of the information obtained during the interview include:
A range of instruments and tools have been developed to assist nurses in their assessment role. These include: the index of independence in activities of daily living, the Barthel index, the Crighton Royal behaviour rating scale, the Clifton assessment procedures for the elderly, the general health questionnaire, and the geriatric mental health state schedule.
Other assessment tools may focus on a specific aspect of the patient's care. For example, the Waterlow score and the Braden scale deals with a patient's risk of developing a Pressure ulcer (decubitus ulcer), the Glasgow Coma Scale measures the conscious state of a person, and various pain scales exist to assess the "fifth vital sign".
The use of medical equipment is routinely employed to conduct a nursing assessment. These include, the otoscope, thermometer, stethoscope, penlight, sphygmomanometer, bladder scanner, speculum, and eye charts. Besides the interviewing process, the nursing assessment utilizes certain techniques to collect information such as observation, auscultation, palpation and percussion.
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