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Four Types of Assessment for Nursing

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In order to effectively determine a diagnosis and treatment for a patient, nurses make four assessments: initial, focused, time-lapsed and emergency. One of the most important parts of nursing education, as well as the health care industry overall, is the group of routine procedures and processes involved with patient assessment and care. As a result, nurses and other health care professionals are able to quickly assess and determine the best treatment for an ailing patient.

Initial Assessment

The initial assessment, also known as triage, helps to determine the nature of the problem and prepares the way for the ensuing assessment stages. The initial assessment is going to be much more thorough than the other assessments used by nurses. Components may include obtaining a patient's medical history or putting him through a physical exam, or preparing a psychosocial assessment for a mental health patient. Other components may include obtaining a patient's vital signs and taking subjective statements from the patient, as well as double-checking the subjective symptoms with the objective signs of the condition.

Focused Assessment

The focused assessment is the stage in which the problem is exposed and treated. Due to the importance of vital signs and their ever-changing nature, they are continuously monitored during all parts of the assessment. Depending on the malady, initial treatment for pain and long-term treatment for the root cause of the malady is administered and monitored. Part of the goal of the focused assessment is to diagnose and treat the patient in order to stabilize her condition. Focused assessments may also include X-rays or other types of tests.

Time-Lapsed Assessment

Once treatment has been implemented, a time-lapsed assessment must be conducted to ensure that the patient is recovering from his malady and his condition has stabilized. Depending on the nature of the malady, the time-lapsed assessment may span the length of one or two hours or a couple of months. During the time-lapsed assessment, the current status of the patient is compared to the previous baseline during and prior to treatment. Similar to the focused assessment, the time-lapsed assessment may also include lab work, X-rays or other diagnostic medical testing.

Emergency Assessments

During emergency procedures, a nurse is focused on rapidly identifying the root causes of concern for the patient and assessing the airway, breathing and circulation (ABCs) of the patient. Once the ABCs are stabilized, the emergency assessment may turn into an initial or focused assessment, depending on the situation. If the nurse is not in a health care setting, emergency assessments must also include an assessment for scene safety so that no other individuals, including the nurse himself, are hurt during the rescue and emergency response process.


David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.

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