How to Study Health Assessment in Nursing School

Assessment is one of the skills that set you apart from a lot of other medical careers. CNA’s, MA’s, Techs, and other UAP’s do not have the assessment skills that registered nurses have. It is one of those skills that is pounded in nursing school, but never truly mastered until years and years of practice. This guide will hopefully give you a better idea of how to study Assessment in Nursing School and answer HESI and NCLEX style questions.

Your textbook may be different, but we used Jarvis’s Physical Examination and Health Assessment, 7th ed.💎

Anatomy & Physiology

Most programs in the United States require A&P I and II. I’ve rarely seen some programs squish all of that in one class. You need to be a master at your anatomy and physiology. Review cardiopulmonary, abdomen, and neuro anatomy before school starts. You will need to be able to pretty much label and/or draw from memory most of your body systems. A lot of people in my class had trouble with Assessment most likely because they were weak in anatomy. I personally had trouble with the cardiovascular system for this very reason.

Vocabulary

There will be a lot of big medical terms that you’ll need to know! Hopefully you’ve picked up a lot from A&P, Patho, and your other Biology classes. When you study, make flashcards of all of the terms you do not know and study them every single day. These words WILL be on your exams, HESI, and NCLEX. Learn them now.

Normal vs. Abnormal

Assessment is all about knowing what you are supposed to be seeing, hearing, and feeling (namely inspecting, auscultating, and palpating). Establishing this foundation is very important! I took notes in two columns. One side was “normal” findings, and the other side was “abnormal” findings.

In your practice, you should be able to tell when something is wrong. You may not know 100% what is going on, but you should be able to tell your doctor over the phone what your findings are.

Study Habits + Repetition

Assessment is a tough subject. It is a lot to chew, especially with your other classes. You need to establish excellent study habits. This means no more going out every weekend, no more binge watching TV. You gotta get up earlier and go to bed later. Check out my Top 10 Study Tips to get some more tips on how to establish excellent study habits!⬇️

Repetition is key with Assessment. I probably studied each set of material more than ten times. I rewrote notes, drew pictures, and answered plenty of practice questions. I made it a goal to know the material inside and out. I probably spent the most amount of time studying for the class during my first semester.

Practice

As much fun reading out of a book is, nursing isn’t all about reading a patient’s chart. You need to practice! Practice on everyone that will let you. Friends, family, strangers (JK, that might be weird). Get used to going through your full head to toe on different people. Talk through your assessment, even if the other person has no idea what you’re saying!

Patience

These skills will come to you. Like I said in the beginning, you will not master these skills until you’ve been in practice for a long time. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be afraid to seek help! As always, I am here to answer your questions!



This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!

Advertisements

Acid-Base Imbalance Chart

Respiratory Acidosis Metabolic Acidosis Respiratory Alkalosis Metabolic Alkalosis
Causes Depression of the respiratory center (brainstem trauma, over-sedation), respiratory muscle paralysis, disorders of the chest wall, disorders of the lung parenchyma, hypoventilation Lactic acidosis, renal failure, diabetic ketoacidosis, diarrhea High altitudes, hypermetabolic states such as fever, anemia and thyrotoxicosis, early salicylate intoxication, anxiety or panic disorder, improper use of mechanical ventilations Prolonged vomiting, gastric suctioning, excessive HCO3- intake, hyperaldosteronism with hypokalemia, diuretic therapy
pH < 7.35 < 7.35 > 7.45 > 7.45
CO2 Hypercapnia   Hypocapnia, CO2 < 38mmHg  
HCO3-   HCO3- < 24 mEq/L   HCO3- > 26 mEq/L
Compensation Not as effective since kidneys take time, but conserve bicarbonate and eliminate H+ Hyperventilation and renal excretion of excess acids Kidneys decrease H+ excretion and HCO3- absorption Hypoventilation, kidneys conserve H+ and eliminate HCO3-
Manifestations Headache, restlessness, blurred vision, apprehension, lethargy, muscle twitching, tremors, convulsions, coma Headache, lethargy, Kussmaul respirations Dizziness, confusion, tingling extremities, convulsions, coma with sigs of hypocalcemia Weakness, muscle cramps, hyperactive reflexes, hypocalcemia
Treatment Restore adequate ventilation, mechanical ventilation may be required, IV lactate HCO3-, lactate (converted to HCO3- in the liver), treat underlying causes Paper bag, treat hypoxemia and hypermetabolic states NaCl, K+, Chloride IV (Cl replaces HCO3-)

Source: Medical-Surgical Nursing : Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems, 10th Ed (Lewis)💎


Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep! 💎

Cardiac Drugs Quick Sheet!

Just a quick overview for the major cardiac/ACLS drugs as pertaining to adults. This is essentially what my flash cards would pertain!

Digoxin

  • Action
    • Positive inotrope – increases the force of cardiac contraction
    • Decrease HR
    • Allow for more complete emptying of the ventricles, thus increasing CO
    • Decrease conduction through the AV node, reduce automaticity of the SA node
  • Indications
    • Heart failure
    • A-fib and A-flutter
    • Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia
  • Special Considerations
    • Monitor potassium levels
    • Count apical for 1 min prior to administration

Atropine

  • Action
    • An anticholinergic drug and increases the firing of the SA node by blocking the action of the vagus nerve.
    • Increases HR
  • Indications
    • 1st line for symptomatic bradycardia
  • Special Considerations
    • Anticholinergic S/E
    • Increases myocardial oxygen demand à be careful in presence of myocardial ischemia

Adenosine

  • Action
    • Antiarrhythmic that decreases conduction through the AV node
  • Indications
    • Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • Special Considerations
    • Commonly causes a few seconds of asystole
    • Very short half-life (6-10 seconds)
    • Push FAST
    • Patient may feel “like they got punched in the chest”

Amiodarone

  • Action
    • Delay repolarization resulting in prolonged duration of action potential and refractory period
    • Class III Potassium Channel Blocker
    • Decreases heart rate and contractility
  • Indications
    • Pulseless V-fib or V-tach
    • Oral – Atrial fibrillation
  • Special Considerations
    • Do NOT use with cardiogenic shock or severe sinus bradycardia à may cause hypotension

Epinephrine

  • Action
    • Stimulate beta1 receptors à cardiac stimulation
    • Increased HR, CO, and contractility
  • Indications
    • Cardiogenic shock, Anaphylactic shock, Septic shock
    • Cardiac arrest, pulseless ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, asystole
  • Special Considerations
    • Raises BP and increases HR à may cause myocardial ischemia, angina
    • May contribute to post-resuscitation myocardial dysfunction

Dopamine

  • Action
    • Positive inotropic
    • Increased myocardial contractility, increased automaticity, increased AV conduction, increased HR, CO, BP, MAP
  • Indications
    • Cardiogenic shock
    • 2nd line for symptomatic bradycardia
  • Special Considerations
    • Correct hypovolemia with volume replacement before using dopamine
    • DO NOT mix with Sodium Bicarb

Lidocaine

  • Action
    • Sodium channel blocker
  • Indications
    • V-fib, V-tach – with and without pulse
  • Special Considerations
    • *REMOVED from ACLS Guidelines*
    • Can cause toxicity!

Sources: 2018 ACLS Guidelines (Provider Manual), Medical-Surgical Nursing : Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems, 10th Ed (Lewis)💎


Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep!💎


This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!

Pharmacology: Seizures and Epilepsy

Definitions:

Convulsion: abnormal motor phenomena (jerking, movements, tics, rigors)
Seizure: a sudden, excessive synchronous electrical discharge of neurons in the brain that can spread to other foci
Epilepsy: group of chronic neurological disorders characterized by recurring seizures

Main Types of Seizures:

Simple Partial: discrete motor, sensory, autonomic and psychoillusionry symptoms. No loss of consciousness. Persists 20-30 seconds.
Tonic-Clonic: major convulsions characterized by a period of muscle rigidity (tonic phase) followed by synchronous muscle jerks (clonic phase). Immediate loss of consciousness. Followed by postictal state. Lasts 90 seconds or less.

Therapeutic Goals:

  • Enable patient to live a normal life.
  • Ideally eliminate seizures, but may not be possible

How do Anti-Epileptic Drugs Work?

  • suppress discharge of neurons within a seizure focus
  • suppress the spread of seizure activity from the focus to other areas of the brain
  • decrease in sodium influx, decrease in calcium influx, increase in potassium influx

Traditional AED’s

  • Phenytoin (Dilantin): Therapeutic range: 10-20mcg/mL, can cause gingival hyperplasia and nystagmus
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol): Also treats trigeminal neuralgia and bipolar disorder. Contraindicated if patient has bone marrow depression or hypersensitivity. Avoid grapefruit juice!
  • Valproic Acid (Depakote): Also treats migraines and bipolar disorder. Therapeutic range: 50-100mcg/mL. Highly teratogenic! Can cause hepatotoxicity, pancreatitis and hypersensitivity.
  • Ethosuximide (Zarontin): Treats absence seizures. Therapeutic range: 40-100mcg/mL. Generally devoid of adverse effects.
  • Phenobarbital: Older drug, long-acting. Toxicity can cause nystagmus and ataxia. Overdose can cause respiratory depression and possibly death. Has a sedative effect, cognitive/learning impairment, CNS depression and drug dependence. May make children hyper.

Status Epilepticus

A MEDICAL EMERGENCY in which a patient is continually having tonic-clonic seizures for 20-30 minutes and is not conscious the whole time.

Immediate treatment includes: turning patient to the side, administering oxygen, removing objects that could potentially harm, having padded bedrails, suction secretions, and DO NOT restrain the patient or put anything in their mouth. Administer one of the following medications:

  • Diazepam (Valium): Used for emergency treatment of status epilepticus. Short half-life. May develop physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Lorazepam (Ativan): Drug of choice used in status epilepticus because of prolonged effects. A rectal gel is available for out of hospital use.

Source: Lehne Pharmacology for Nursing Care, 9th Edition, Chapter 24💎



Pharmacology: Parkinson’s Disease Quick Sheet

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2016

Parkinson’s Disease:

  • Idiopathic degenerative disorder of CNS from loss of dopamine-secreting neurons in the substantia nigra
  • – Clinical presentation: resting tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, postural disturbances
  • Therapeutic goals: Improve ADL’s

Dopaminergic Drugs:

  • Activates dopamine receptors, increase dopamine levels, inhibit actions of ACH
  • LEVODOPA: metabolic precursor of dopamine that crosses the BBB, converted to dopamine once in the brain. Disappointing long term effects such as “wearing-off” and “on-off” phenomenon. 2% reaches the brain
  • CARBIDOPA-LEVODOPA: carbidopa prevents levodopa from getting destroyed by decarboxylase enzymes in the peripheral blood. Allows for lower dose of levodopa and less side effects
  • Major side effects: N/V, dyskinesias, orthostatic hypotension

Anticholinergic Drugs:

  • Decreases effects of ACH
  • Can reduce tremor, possibly rigidity, but not bradykinesia
  • Less effective than dopaminergic drugs
  • Most used: BENZOTROPINE (COGENTIN) and TRIHEXYPHENIDYL (ARTANE)
  • Major side effects: dry mouth, blurred vision, tachycardia, constipation, urinary retention, decreased sweating, increased body temp

COMT Inhibitors

  • inhibit metabolism of levodopa in the periphery
  • have no therapeutic effects of their own
  • ENTACAPONE and TOLCAPONE

MAO-B Inhibitors

  • inhibit inactivation of dopamine in the brain
  • when combined with levodopa, can reduce “wearing off” effect
  • SELEGILLINE (ELDEPRYL)

Source: Lehne’s Pharmacology for Nursing Care, 9th Edition. Burchum and Rosenthal, Chapter 21.💎 | Medical-Surgical Nursing : Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems, 10th Ed (Lewis)💎



Nurse Skyanne is a participant in the AbeBooks Inc. Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://www.abebooks.com.

NCLEX Review: Fluid and Electrolytes

Sodium (135-145 mEq/L)

  • The major cation in the ECF. It has a water retaining effect. When there is excess Na+ in the ECF, more water will be reabsorbed by the kidneys.
  • Functions: maintains body fluids, conduction of neuromuscular impulses via pump, regulates acid-base balance by combining with Cl- or HCO3-.

Hyponatremia

  • Causes: vomiting, diarrhea, NG suction, excessive perspiration, kidney disease, water intoxication, IV D5W, SIADH, burns
  • Signs and Symptoms: apprehension, muscular weakness, postural hypotension, N/V, dry mucous membranes, tachycardia
  • Treatment: water restriction, normal saline IV

Hypernatremia

  • Causes: excessive salt intake, dehydration, CHF, hepatic failure (excess aldosterone secretion), diabetes insipidus
  • Signs and Symptoms: extreme thirst, sticky mucous membranes, dry tongue, fever, postural hypotension, restlessness/agitation/irritability, increased fluid retention/edema, decreased urine output, convulsions
  • Treatment: stop IV normal saline, replace water loss

Potassium (3.5-5.0 mEq/L)

  • The major ICF electrolyte, 80%-90% is excreted by the kidneys.
  • When tissue breaks down, K+ leaves the cells and enters the ECF and is excreted by the kidneys
  • The body does not conserve K+
  • Influences both skeletal and cardiac muscle activity

Hypokalemia

  • ** The most common electrolyte imbalance
  • Causes: vomiting/diarrhea, renal disorder, sweating, crash diets, diuretics
  • S/S: fatigue, anorexia, N/V, muscle weakness, decreased bowel motility, cardiac dysrhythmias, paresthesia or tender muscles
  • Treatment: administer KCl (never give K+ undiluted or IV push. concentrated solutions should be administered through central veins. Use IV pump!)

Hyperkalemia

  • Causes: renal failure, potassium supplements, digoxin toxicity, potassium sparing diuretics, acidosis (DKA), fluid volume deficit. 
  • S/S: anxiety, cardiac arrhythmias (bradycardia, heart block, peaked T wave, widened QRS), muscle weakness, abdominal cramps, diarrhea
  • Treatment: dialysis, Kayexalate, stop supplements

Calcium (4.5-5.3 mg/dL)

  • Ionized (free Calcium) is Calcium not attached to proteins.
  • 99% is located in skeletal system, 1% in serum
  • Necessary for bone and teeth formation
  • Necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses and contraction of the myocardium and skeletal muscles
  • Causes blood clotting by converting prothrombin into thrombin
  • Strengthens capillary membranes

Hypocalcemia

  • Causes: lack of Ca and Vit D in diet, extensive infection, hypoparathyroidism, pancreatitis, chronic renal failure (Phosphorus rises/calcium declines)
  • S/S: Related to diminished neuromuscular and cardiac function – positive Trousseau’s sign, positive Chvostek’s sign, numbness of fingers and around mouth, hyperactive reflexes, tetany, convulsion, spasms/muscle cramps, arrhythmia/ventricular tachycardia. (CATS: convulsions, arrhythmias, tetany, spasms)
  • Treatment: Oral/IV replacement, correct underlying cause

Hypercalcemia

  • Causes: hyperparathyroidism, neoplasm, osteoporosis, prolonged immobilization
  • S/S: anorexia, N/V, lethargy, flank pain from kidney stones, cardiac arrhythmias (heart block, eventual cardiac arrest), muscle flaccidity
  • Treatment: Calcitonin, discontinue antacids, treatment of underlying cause

Phosphate (2.7-4.5 mg/dL)

  • buffer found primarily in ICF
  • functions: acid-base regulation, phosphate and calcium help with bone and teeth development, promotes normal neuromuscular action and participates in CHO metabolism, conversion of glycogen to glucose
  • normally absorbed in the GI tract, regulated by diet, renal excretion, intestinal absorption and PTH

Hypophosphatemia

  • Cause: excretion
  • Symptoms: disorientation, bruising, numbness, bone pain, muscle weakness
  • Treatment: increase dietary intake, IV replacement

Hyperphosphatemia

  • Causes: decreased intake or increased excretion
  • S/S: same as hypocalcemia
  • Treatment: limit phosphate intake, administer aluminum-based antacids.

Chloride (98-106 mEq/L)

  • anion found mostly in ECF, maintains body water balance, plays a role in acid-base balance, combines with H+ to produce acidity in the stomach
  • follows Na+ up or down

Hypochloremia

  • Causes: vomiting, diarrhea, excessive NG drainage, hypokalemia, hyponatremia, adrenal gland deficiency
  • S/S: hyperexcitabilty of the nervous system and muscles, tetany
  • Treatment: treat underlying cause

Hyperchloremia

  • Causes: dehydration, hypernatremia, kidney dysfunction, head injury, hyperparathyroidism
  • S/S: deep, rapid, vigorous breathing, lethargy, weakness
  • Treatment: decrease intake, correct underlying cause

Magnesium (1.5-2.5 mEq/L)

  • Most plentiful in the cells
  • Needed for neuromuscular activity
  • Responsible for the transport of Na and K across the cell membrane

Hypomagnesemia

  • Causes: protein malnutrition, alcoholism/cirrhosis of the liver, aldosterone excess, inadequate absorption (chronic diarrhea, vomiting, NG drainage)
  • S/S: muscle tremors, hyperactive tendon reflexes, confusion, tachycardia
  • Treatment: treat underlying causes, IV replacement if necessary.

Hypermagnesemia

  • Causes: severe dehydration, renal failure, leukemia, antacids/laxatives
  • S/S: flushing, muscular weakness, increased perspiration, cardiac arrhythmias (bradycardia, prolonged QT intervals, AV block)
  • Treatment: treat underlying cause

Helpful Tidbits

  • 4 electrolytes that impact cardiac functioning: K, Mg, Ca, Ph
  • 3 imbalances that contribute to digoxin toxicity: hypokalemia, hypercalcemia, hypomagnesmia
  • 4 imbalances that contribute to seizures: hyponatremia, hypocalcemia, hypomagnesmia, hyperphosphatemia
  • Electrolytes associated with alkalosis: hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia
  • Clinical Dehydration = ECV Deficit + Hypernatremia

Source: Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing, Fundamentals of Nursing – Perry & Potter 2016💎




This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!