Techniques for Assessing Patient Illness

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Nurses and doctors work closely together to assess patients for illness. In this lesson, we will learn about the different techniques that are used to assess patient illness.

Nurse Assessment

Hazel is 91 years old and lives in an Assisted Living Facility. She has a home health nurse that visits once a week. It has become too difficult to go out and therefore she hasn't seen her Primary Physician in over a year. She relies heavily on her home health nurse visits, especially when she isn't feeling well. The nurse looks her over and communicates with her physician for any needs.

Nurses play an important role in assessing patient's overall health status as well as assessing for physical illness. We will look at the different ways that they assess patients.

Subjective Data

The nurse arrives for her scheduled visit. Hazel tells her that she has been feeling more tired than usual and she is taking more naps during the day. She says she is coughing a lot at night and is becoming short of breath when she takes her shower. She says she isn't hungry at all the last couple of days. The nurse proceeds to ask her several questions- What did she eat today? Has she had a fever or chills? When was her last bowel movement? etc.

The information that Hazel provided was subjective data. Subjective data is any information the patient, family, or caregiver provide. The nurse can collect a lot of information by asking questions to the patient and any family or caregivers. This is how the nurse can gather a health history.

Objective Data

The nurse takes out her nursing tools: stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and pulse oximeter. She uses these tools to take the patient's vital signs.

Vital signs include blood pressure, pulse, respirations, temperature, and oxygen saturation. Vital signs are one example of objective data. Objective data is concrete, measurable information.

The nurse then uses her stethoscope to listen to the patient's lungs, heart, and belly.

The nurse was demonstrating auscultation. Auscultation is the skill of listening with a stethoscope. The nurse was listening to lung sounds, heart sounds, and bowel sounds.

The nurse then uses her hand and softly pushes on Hazel's abdomen. She also feels for pulses in her feet and pushes lightly on her ankles.

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