How to Answer Priority and Delegation NCLEX Questions

Everytime I see one of these questions, I want to pull my hair out! They intimidate me and I often feel the least prepared for these types of questions. Here I will break down how to answer NCLEX-style priority and delegation questions.

A lot of this material comes from the Saunder’s Comprehensive NCLEX Review💎. If you’ve seen any of my other posts, you have probably run across this book. I wish I would have purchased this book my first semester of school. I bought it my third semester and kicked myself for not getting it sooner. It has been worth every penny to me!

Another great resource is the Brilliant Nurse💎 Course for NCLEX prep. It has practice questions, detailed rationales, videos, strategy sessions, and case studies. The prices are very competitive with other similar online NCLEX-prep websites.

Priority

Prioritizing patient care is an essential nursing skill. It will determine who gets care first, and the order in which you perform your tasks. Often in the clinical setting, it can be easier to spot your priorities because you have access to a lot of information. NCLEX-style questions can be tough simply because you are given 1-2 sentences of limited information with which you must make the decision.

These types of questions can be multiple choice, select all that apply, ordered response, exhibit questions, etc. Any type of question is game!

Priority Guidelines

  • ABC’s – Airway, Breathing, Circulation
  • Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Consult your patients about their priorities and needs
  • Use the nursing process to guide you

When you are given a set of choices, read them all before making your decision. Hopefully you can eliminate 1-2 choices right off the bat. After that, use your ABC’s. If any answer choices fall into that, it is probably your answer.

Delegation

The key to answering delegation questions is understanding the scope of practice for yourself and each of your colleagues. You must also analyze the tasks that need to be done and the importance of completing them. Then, assign tasks to a competent individual.

When you assign a task to someone else, the nurse who owns the task is accountable for it.

Always ensure patient safety when delegating tasks. In general, non-invasive interventions such as ambulation and hygiene measures can be delegated to UAP’s (Unlicensed Assistive Personnel). An LPN or LVN can do some invasive procedures such as catheterization and suctioning.

Remember that a Registered Nurse is responsible for assessment, planning care, initiating teaching, and administering medications intravenously.

Never assign an unstable patient to UAP’s or LVN’s.

I hope this helps explain how to approach these questions! Practice makes perfect. Use one of the resources listed above to do practice questions! The more you expose yourself to these tough questions, the better you will get at it!


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Changing Careers (or Majors) to go to Nursing School

When I graduated high school, I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer and work for NASA. I applied and got accepted to some of the top engineering schools in the country like University of Texas at Austin and Colorado School of Mines. I eventually chose a scholarship at the University of Colorado Boulder. My engineering journey lasted three semesters, and then I discovered that I was entirely unhappy with my life. I had a fancy engineering internship, I had great friends, and I lived in a beautiful city. What on earth could be wrong with that?

The bottom line is that engineering was not for me. It wasn’t God’s plan for me. At first I was upset that I had wasted so much time in that field, but looking back, I have used a lot of those skills in my daily life and my new nursing career.

A Diversion is Not A Waste of Time

There are so many people out there who choose nursing as a second, even third career. Some of my thoughts getting accepted into nursing school at age 24 were, “It’s about time,” and “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner.”

It has taken about three semesters of school for me to be content with all of the other life choices I’ve made. I had a really rough patch, and I made a lot of choices that I regret.

If you have those types of life experiences, deal with the emotions, and use it to your advantage. I’ll use the cliche, learn from your mistakes. I am better able to handle the monstrosity of nursing school because of what I went through to get there. I would not be able to handle nursing school if I went right out of high school. I know that and I am thankful for it.

Tip: Write out your biggest life regrets/bad choices. On a separate piece of paper, write out positive lessons you learned from them. Then burn the first page with your regrets.

Have a Plan Before Quitting Your Current Job

This is something I did NOT do. Although there were many other factors in my quitting engineering school, I did not plan anything out. I left school for about a year before going back. I knew I did not want to do Aerospace, but I wanted to finish a degree. I decided to take some biology classes.

Some more life stuff happened and I switched to online, part-time school. By this time, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I had spent so much time in the hospital that I fell in love with the art of nursing.

If I had a plan after the first time I left school, I would have been better off. But that didn’t happen. I had no idea how to start. I did zero research. I straight up just quit.

Tip: If you aren’t sure which major you want, take your basics first. Each state has different requirements, so check those out. Get your English, Math, and electives out of the way.

Do Your Research About Nursing

Nursing is a one-of-a-kind career. Nursing school is rigorous and life-changing. You will lose sleep. You will have less time with your family. You will cry. You will want to quit.

Do your research about nursing. There are a lot of misconceptions about what the job entails. If you have friends or family in nursing, ask them questions.

Listen To Your Heart

If you have a passion for it, go for it. If you are 100% sure you want to be a nurse, go for it. Any roadblocks along the way just makes it more fun when you get to your goals.

If you do all of this research and soul-searching and you still aren’t sure, you are an adult and can make your own decisions. However, I can tell you from personal experience that you need your whole heart to make it through nursing. Even when I hate school, I love it. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Take some time to better yourself. Read some personal development books. They are not all “if you believe it you can achieve it” cheesy. Take a look at some of my favorites below –>

Thanks for reading!



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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!



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FIVE Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Nursing School

1) Straight-A …Student

If you are/were a straight-A student, get ready to get knocked down a notch or two. I don’t know anybody in my class of about 100 people who have gotten all A’s. I know there were maybe two in the class ahead of us? Point is, get ready for that not to happen.

I came in head-strong thinking, “I know everyone has been saying this but I can do it. I get can all A’s.”

The first round of exams went through and I thought, “Okay. That’s doable.” But then the second and third round came and eventually I was just doing everything I could to stay afloat.

My advice is this: do your best, do not compare yourself to your classmates, and ask for help when you need it. Your grades are not reflective of your capabilities as a nurse.

2) Mental Health > Study Time

“Don’t pound yourself into the ground with studying because self-care is just as important.”

My mentee

Don’t get me wrong, you need to study hard and make it a good habit. But you also need to realize that if you wear yourself out, no amount of studying is going to help you.

Make a study schedule and stick to it. Study every day, schedule breaks and rewards, and do not study outside of your allotted time. I stop studying around 8-9pm every night, and I always get my 7-9 hours of sleep.

3) Roll with the Punches

I had an expectation that nursing school would be organized, the instructions would be clear, and that there would always be a strict schedule. Boy oh boy was I wrong!!

You will have to learn to “roll with the punches.” Don’t sweat the small details. Be ready to adjust and readjust your schedule. Nursing school is very fluid!

I remember one week last semester where they said, “Oh by the way, this small group of people needs to put together a project and present it at this location. And you have five days.” I remember thinking, you want me to do that and my million other things I have going on?

I go to class every day expecting that something else will be thrown our way. That way, I’m not surprised.

4) Nurse-Administrator

The administrative/paperwork stuff added another level of stress to nursing school. The beginning was extra stressful because you have to submit a lot of paperwork to the state board of nursing. It helps to become ultra-organized with your vaccine records, identification documents, health insurance, CPR certifications, background check documents, drug screen, etc. There are 32 separate documents I have submitted JUST to be eligible to register for classes.

You will most likely also submit additional paperwork for each of your clinical sites. You will also be expected to keep up with your resume and portfolio.

If your school tells you to start working on paperwork before school starts, DO IT RIGHT AWAY. If you wait until school starts, you will be stressed out about the administrative stuff and that will cut into your study time.

5) Tick-tick-tick-DONE

When I got my acceptance letter for school, I thought that the two years would take forever, and I questioned whether or not I wanted to commit to two years of my life.

Now I’ll be starting my last semester of school and I cannot believe how fast time has gone by! When did I get here? I feel like I just woke up and now it’s time for me to apply for big girl jobs!

Nursing school keeps you so busy that time passes by really fast. Each week is so jam-packed that seven days don’t seem like enough time.

Don’t forget to enjoy life in those little moments!



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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!💎


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My First Code.

I am still processing my first full code experience. I had previously been involved in a “chemical” code in which the family chose no intubation and no compressions. The patient did not survive, but he was in his 90’s and probably ready to go. I had another code called during seizures, but the patient’s heart never stopped. This was my first full on ER code blue experience. There are some potentially gross details in this story. Read at your own risk. Portions of this story (i.e. room numbers, times, names, etc.) are adjusted and no private information is given in this scenario.

All Emergency Departments have that phone. Some are red, some are white, all of them are loud enough to pierce through the chaos of a busy shift. There’s a phrase that makes everyone stop what they’re doing and prepare for the worst–“CPR in progress, ETA 10 minutes.

Room 1? Room 1. Let’s go.

In our city, ETA 10 minutes via EMS usually turns into 15-20 minutes. Our preparation was like clockwork. The intubation box was set up and opened. Crash cart plastic ripped off. Body bag placed under the sheets. We didn’t want to use it, but EMS reported asystole and 4 rounds of epi at the scene. I grabbed a handful of gloves, pocketed my stethoscope and badge, tightened the drawstring on my scrubs, and set up the stool. I was set to begin compressions upon arrival.

Upon arrival EMS is vigorously performing CPR on Mr. X. He is easily twice my size and no more than 10 years older than me. “Who else is rotating compressions?” I ask. I have help. We transfer the patient and I immediately begin compressions. It’s a whirlwind. Something came over me. I’m pushing as hard and as fast as I can. I’m exhausted after a minute. But I kept going and had excellent quality compressions.

My team is organized. Methodical. Everyone has a job and knows their job. Hands and arms are working around me, placing stickers and pads, getting lines and blood. The patient’s torso is wet from whatever he vomited before arresting.

Two minutes! Time for a pulse check!” Our recorder says assertively.

I stop compressions and check a carotid pulse while other team members check for radial and femoral pulses. Nothing. The code leader calls for another round of epi. My colleague knows I need to switch out. Five seconds later, compressions are resumed and I snap out of “compression mode.”

This guy is laying here and we don’t know anything about him. We have little to no history. We don’t even know his name.

I look at each person in the room. Everyone is hyperfocused on their task at hand. One nurse is documenting. Another nurse is keeping track of time with that person and giving medications. Another nurse is at the crash cart drawing up everything imaginable. Respiratory is bagging the patient. Another tech is standing near the door. The doctor is setting up the ultrasound and attempting to get a gown on. Two minutes goes by faster when you’re not the one doing compressions. It’s already time for another pulse check. Nothing.

I’m resuming compressions and I notice that the second time around is much harder. My upper body is already exhausted from the first round. I readjusted my position so that I was nearly on the bed. I need as much leverage as I can get. The doctor says that at the next pulse check he will check for movement with the ultrasound. This requires that three of us move our position, one person takes the front pad off, and another person squirts the ultrasound jelly on the patient’s chest. We only have 15 seconds to coordinate.

Two minutes! Time for another pulse check!

To me our movements seem choreographed. To an onlooker it probably looks chaotic. But the job gets done. No heart movement. More medications are pushed. My colleague is resuming compressions and the team gets ready for rapid sequence intubation. “This should have been done at the scene,” I thought.

Two minutes. Time for a pulse check and more epi.

Mr. X is having PEA. It’s not really a rhythm. It’s not shockable. It’s my turn for compressions again.

By the third round, I feel like my whole body is going to give out. My hands are slipping around everywhere because of the vomit and ultrasound jelly.

I can’t continue compressions!” I yell.

Do you need to switch?

No, I need friction!

I lift my hands up for half a second and someone geniously throws a towel over the patient’s chest. Perfect. This is perfect. My compressions are now high quality again. Everyone is ready for intubation. A mask. I need a mask. This guy probably aspirated and I don’t want whatever that was all over my face, too.

Can someone please put a mask and shield on me?

I continue my compressions as my colleague places a mask on me. He did a great job considering I was half on the stool, half on the bed, hair astray, and using all of my body strength to try to bring this guy back. I’m exhausted. I’m thinking to myself, “How much longer can I do this?” It isn’t about me. Everyone in this room is busting their ass for this patient. I’m not going to be the one to give out.

Two minutes. Pulse check!

Asystole. No pulses. No sign of life. Intubation is done and there is a significant amount of fluid coming out. CO2 monitor said 7 but now there are just dashes. No movement on the ultrasound. The doctor wants to resume compressions but he says it will probably be our last round. It has been a total of 45 minutes counting EMS time.

My colleague resumes compressions. He and I are both dripping in sweat.

We have given everything we can. H’s and T’s are checked. Bicarb, calcium, D50, fluids, etc. We have exhausted everything. As a team we were thinking massive pulmonary embolism which is very hard to come back from, if not impossible. I don’t think he was really moving any air.

Are there any objections? Does anyone have any other ideas?” The doctor asks the room.

We all look at each other and realize there is nothing else we can do for Mr. X.

Time of death 1148.


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Top 10 Study Tips!

1. Make a study schedule and stick to it.

2. Pace yourself. Study every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

3. If you don’t understand something, find a different resource (ask a friend, find a YouTube video, email the instructor, etc.).

4. Study for 50 minutes at a time and take a 10-15 minute break in between.

5. During those breaks, don’t just be on your phone or computer. Get up. Move around. Get your blood flowing!

6. Make time for yourself. If you like to read leisurely, do it. If you work out, do it.

7. SLEEP. for the love of God. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

8. Find a method that works for you. Flashcards, outlines, Quizlet, recording yourself, drawing pictures, etc. It’s all trial and error.

My less than artistic attempt at understanding the cardiac system.

9. DON’T CRAM. If you don’t know the material the night before the test, chances are you won’t know it for the test.

10. Studies show that you need to review material 7 times to retain 90% of the information.


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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)💎



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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💎




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