What Is Kardex? - Definition & Use in Nursing

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  • 0:00 Introduction to a…
  • 0:32 Definition of a Kardex
  • 1:20 Kardex Uses in Nursing
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Bethany Lieberman

Bethany is a certified OB/GYN nurse who has a master's degree in Nursing Education.

Expert Contributor
Shelby DeVore

Shelby has a BS in Animal Science and a MS in Agriculture and Natural Resources. She taught high school and college animal science and biology courses for over 5 years.

A Kardex is a medical information system used by nursing staff as a way to communicate important information on their patients. It is a quick summary of individual patient needs that is updated at every shift change.

Introduction to a Nurse's Resource

Let's imagine Jamie is a new nurse. She is both excited and nervous to start on the surgical ward. On her first day of orientation she is assigned a nurse mentor to guide her. Jamie confides in her mentor that she is really concerned -- how will she possibly remember all she needs to know about the eight patients she has been given? Her mentor gives her a wink and says she'll let her in on a little secret. Jamie can use a system called a Kardex, which is a nurse's best resource to get updated patient information.

Definition of a Kardex?

A Kardex is a desktop file system that gives a brief overview of each patient and is updated every shift. It is like having a cheat sheet for nurses to reference that is separate from the patient chart. It is usually kept in a central location, such as the nursing station, for quick access.

Kardex is actually the brand name and trademark for the original cardstock system. The original system was a desktop file (similar to a large rolodex) that had slots for multiple pages. Thick cardstock pages were inserted into the slots, one for each patient. The pages were written on in pencil and was updated every shift.

The Kardex system has evolved over the years, and some nursing wards have made electronic versions that can be updated on the computer and printed.

Kardex Uses In Nursing

The Kardex is used in nursing as a quick reference guide to the particular needs of individual patients. Let's go back to our characters from earlier. The mentor explains to Jamie that when she comes on shift and she is given her patient assignment, she needs to reference the Kardex when receiving reports from the outgoing nurse. That way she can make any updates to the Kardex that will assist her in remembering important facts about her patient's care.

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Additional Activities

Kardex Research Prompt

Training a New Nurse

In the lesson, you learned that Jamie was a new nurse in a surgical ward. She was worried about keeping up with all of her patients and their various needs while she cared for them. Now, imagine that you are her mentor nurse. You need to train Jamie in how to complete a Kardex based on the needs of the surgical floor. Research the information that typically goes on a Kardex. What would be the most useful information to put on the Kardex on the surgical ward? Is there a particular order that the information should go in? Research these questions and prepare a brief training that you can go over with Jamie and future nurses on your floor. Be sure to include how your floor's nurses currently fill out the Kardex on your floor so that Jamie's transition can be as seamless as possible.

Consider the following information when determining what should go on the Kardex: medications, hygiene routines, allergies, diet information, family or caregiver information, precautions or warning signs. Determine where the information should come from, i.e., doctor's reports, nurses, care sheet, etc. Be sure to show Jamie which pieces of information on the Kardex should be updated at the end of each shift change.

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