Head to Toe Examination and Documentation


Completing a thorough head to toe assessment is a skill that takes practice and a broad knowledge base. No body system stands alone. Completing a quality assessment of one system may lead to clues about issues or problems in another system. Although head to toe exam is recommended, it is important for clinicians to develop methods that work for them. Patients may present with acute symptoms or complaints that do not allow time for a comprehensive exam. It is vital for the nurse to be able to discern what level of assessment is required for each individual. A patient who is in obvious distress will require a much focused assessment and relatively quick intervention. The type of assessment can also be affected by the health care setting. Nurses working in an outpatient setting may have more time to complete a comprehensive exam and history. Nurses working in hospitals may have multiple patients with various problems that require focused assessments for the sake of efficiency. Some may have a modified head to toe examination technique. Documenting assessment findings have been greatly facilitated in the facility for which I am employed. Each patient room is equipped with a computer to allow for immediate entry of assessment findings. All units have at least five to six, computers- on-wheels (COW) that can be taken from patient to patient if needed. It is interesting to observe the level of competence exhibited by nurses. Novice nurses tend to take copious notes on each system while more experience nurses can gather much information about his or her patients during the general survey. As assessment skills develop, nurses can gather information with minimal effort.

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