General observations made during the initial assessment of a patient include their appearance, mobility, ability to communicate, and cognitive function.  Use this table to evaluate your general assessment skills and how you record your findings. If you identify areas you are shallow in, and then make the appropriate adjustments the next time you record patient care.

Guidelines for General Observations

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat

After examining the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, document the following:
Assessed The patient’s ability to see objects with or without corrective lenses as appropriate
Assessed The patient’s ability to hear spoken words clearly
Inspected The patient’s eyes and ears for discharge; the nasal mucous membranes for dryness, irritation, and the presence of blood; and teeth for cleanliness
Assessed How well the patient’s dentures fit, if appropriate
Assessed The condition of the oral mucous membranes
Palpated The lymph nodes in the neck

Gastrointestinal system

After examining the gastrointestinal system, document the following:
Auscultated For bowel sounds in all quadrants
Assessed For abdominal distention or ascites
Palpated The abdomen to assess for tenderness

Musculoskeletal system

After examining the musculoskeletal system, document the following:
Assessed The range of motion of major joints
Assessed For swelling at the joints
Assessed For the presence of contractures, muscular atrophy, or deformities


Top 5 Malpractice Claims Made Against Nursing Professionals

Chances are at some point in your career, you will either:

  • Have a claim made against your professional services.
  • You will be named in a group lawsuit – whether as part of a larger group of health care professionals and/or included with your health care facility.
  • Witness a negligent act by another health care professional during the course of a normal work day.
  • Be deposed to testify on behalf of yourself, your employer or colleague.

No matter what the situation, being involved in any allegation of malpractice can be emotionally and financially devastating for all parties. However, if you are specifically named in the malpractice suit, your asset, reputation and career could all be in jeopardy. It is important to understand the most common allegations and how they happen in order to minimize your risk. Most malpractice calms involve at least one of the following allegations:

  1. Failure to follow standards of care
  2. Failure to use equipment responsibly
  3. Failure to document
  4. Failure to assess and monitor the patient
  5. Failure to communicate.


I will discuss these five common allegations in the coming blog posts, so stay in touch!

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