Types of Personal Care Skills in Nursing

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

We are going to look at the personal care skills required in order to properly care for a patient and help keep patients free of diseases. We will discuss how and the frequency in which they should be done.

Personal Care

On any given day, we take care of ourselves without much thought. We do our hair, brush our teeth, use the bathroom, take a shower and eat. It is pretty much routine in our lives. However, when you are incapacitated by illness or disability, the routine personal care can become impossible to do on your own. Personal care refers to anything that is done to take care of your body. These include things such as caring for your skin, hair, and mouth as well as bathing and eating.

We cannot handle someone else's body the same way that we handle our own. As a nurse, you will develop personal care skills to take care of someone else's personal needs without causing injury to them or yourself and leave them with dignity.

Personal Care Skills

Hair Care

Your patient wants to have clean hair at all times. This may mean washing their hair every day or every 3 days depending on their requests and hair type. Some (because of their ethnicity) need to wash their hair daily, and with others, weekly. So, ask your patients their preferences. Find out how they want their hair styled. Simply having their hair clean and styled can help them feel better.

Always use the patient's supplies to clean and style their hair. You should never use anyone else's comb, brush, shampoo, conditioner, or any other hair care item. Make sure all supplies are clean before you begin and clean them every time they are used.

When dealing with patients with short hair, whether male or female, it may be best to have a barber come in to cut their hair for them. If that is not possible, then it is best to cut their hair regularly so it does not have a chance to grow out longer than you are able to successfully cut it. Be sure you use only their supplies to cut their hair whether it be scissors or shaver.

Oral Care

Your patients want that fresh feeling in their mouths just like you do each and every day. This all begins with proper oral care. You want to brush your patient's teeth at least in the morning and at night. They may also request that you brush their teeth after meals, especially if they ate something smelly like garlic or have food stuck in their teeth. This again requires that you use only their toothbrush. Brush their teeth thoroughly, but gently to ensure you do not cause an injury.

Denture Care

For patients with dentures, you need to clean their dentures using their denture cleanser. The dentures need to be brushed and checked for cracks daily. Make sure you place the dentures in the appropriate soaking agent in their denture container at night and any other time they are not in the patient's mouth.

Skin Care

Your patient's skin care is important to maintain the integrity of their skin. Check for any areas of their skin that may be thinning or developing a rash. Alert the doctor if you notice any of these changes in the skin or reddening of the skin. These could be signs of a developing decubitus ulcer or a bed sore in a patient. Bed sores can be avoided by turning the patients every two hours in bed.


Ideally, you want to encourage your patient to do as much of their own bathing as possible. Whatever they cannot do, you need to do for them. This could mean that you only have to wash hard to reach areas or it can mean that you are giving them a full bath in the tub or bed. Use the patient's own soap since some people have sensitive skin and other soaps may irritate their skin or cause allergic reactions. Be sure to wear gloves if you are bathing an incontinent patient or may contact bodily fluids in the process. Incontinent refers to patients that are not able to control the release of their urine and/or feces.

Nurse giving a patient a bed bath
Illustration of nurse giving a bed bath

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