Health Assessment Tips for Nurses

Nurses can work in a variety of challenging and rewarding advanced practice roles — but many require knowledge of assessment skills taught in an RN to BSN program.

The RN to BSN online degree program from William Paterson University (WP) might be your ticket to success. The online course NUR 6001: Advanced Health Assessment of the Adult Client at WP helps RNs learn the techniques of history taking, physical examination and laboratory/diagnostic testing to best assess and diagnose adults.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Advanced Assessment Skills?

In a qualitative study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers identified the following three benefits of using advanced assessment skills in patient care.

  1. Nurses Look for More

Nurses with advanced assessment skills are trained in inspection, auscultation, percussion and palpation, as well as ways to spot early signs of abnormalities that might indicate a patient is unhealthy. For example, a study reported by NCBI highlights a nurse’s use of palpation to find that a 4-year-old’s pulse was fluctuating between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). This patient had a history of cancer but was admitted to the clinic for a viral illness. The nurse said she could have failed to identify this irregular pulse if she had taken it with an oxygen saturation monitor instead of palpation.

Additionally, the child was irritable and complained of a headache. Although a blood pressure reading is not routinely required for very young children, the nurse decided to check the child’s blood pressure and found it to be slightly high. This further confirmed her suspicions of something more serious than a viral illness.

  1. Nurses Challenge Interpretations

In the example above, the nurse explained her assessment findings and concern to the physician. However, the physician dismissed her concern, saying there were other explanations for the child’s symptoms. Still, the nurse persisted, asking why the pulse might be so irregular and dropping to 60 bpm. The physician had no explanation.

The nurse understood her assessment findings were abnormal and asked the physician about possible causation. A nurse with advanced assessment skills is more confident in challenging others’ assessment conclusions when they are inconsistent with the data.

“It is the interpretation of what is seen, heard, or felt within the full context of the patient situation, which is the advanced skill,” said one of the study’s researchers, Shelaine Zambas.

  1. Nurses Honor Patients’ Best Interests

The nurse continued to carefully monitor and assess the child as her shift progressed. At approximately 2 p.m., the nurse assessed the child and found her pulse was still irregular, but now it remained low at just 60 bpm. Her blood pressure was higher than it had been that morning. At this point, the nurse decided the child needed medical intervention and phoned the physician. Now alarmed, the physician ordered an urgent head CT scan which showed the child had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.

Knowing when assessment findings are abnormal gives nurses more confidence to advocate for medical intervention when they have reason to believe patient safety is at risk.

Are There Other Benefits for RNs With Advanced Assessment Skills?

Yes! Nurses themselves benefit when they have well-developed assessment skills. BSN-prepared nurses often receive higher pay and a steady flow of job opportunities because of their valued skills.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides registered nurses with comprehensive assessment skills and knowledge that boosts their expertise. As such, nurses with a BSN earn approximately $81,249 annually, whereas their RN colleagues make an average of $70,335, according to ZipRecruiter (October 2020).

Recent findings from NurseJournal note a steady increase of jobs as well for highly skilled nurses. Those with BSN degrees have advanced assessment skills and knowledge, making them highly qualified in the eyes of employers. This translates into more job opportunities for nursing professionals with this degree.

Nurses with a BSN are equipped with the assessment skills to look more closely for abnormal patient findings, challenge interpretations that do not align with their assessments and honor patients’ best interests. As a result, skilled BSN nurses earn more and have more job opportunities to choose from.

Learn more about William Paterson University’s RN to BSN online program.


National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Consequences of Using Advanced Physical Assessment Skills in Medical and Surgical Nursing

ZipRecruiter: Nurse BSN Salary

ZipRecruiter: RN Salary

NurseJournal: Advanced Practice Nursing Fact Sheet

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