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Nursing Responsibilities for Diagnostic Testing

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Nurses provide a vital service to patients and other health care providers. They specialize in patient care, prepare patients for testing and evaluate health progress. Diagnostic testing refers to any test that may provide a diagnosis for a condition, disease or syndrome. This may include x-rays, scans and blood work. Nurses must report the results of the testing to those in need of the information when results are available.

Preparing equipment

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Gathering and preparing equipment is often done by nurses. Their responsibilities include checking the equipment to assure it is working properly and is ready for use on patients. Cleaning equipment before and after each use to prevent the spread of infection is done by the nursing staff. Another service they provide is assisting technicians who specialize in specific equipment use to make sure the testing is performed on the patient without difficulty. They must also report any broken or damaged equipment and prevent it from being used on patients before it is fixed.

Preparing patients

Preparing a patient for diagnostic testing is a nurse's responsibility. Drawing blood or administering medication prior to testing is one way nurses help prepare patients. Another way they help is by collecting specimens, such as sputum or urine samples, and sending them to the lab. Patients may need to have an area sterilized or shaved for a surgical procedure or the application of electrodes. Nurses assist with mentally preparing patients for testing by answering questions, explaining the procedure or test and possible outcomes.

Assist with testing

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Assisting both patients and other health care providers during diagnostic testing is done by nurses. They provide patient care during the test which may include administering medicines when needed. Nurses must help position patients properly, like rolling the patient over, in order to complete the necessary diagnostic testing. Transporting patients to and from the test can be part of their job. This helps ensure the patient arrives at the testing site safely and on time.

Monitor patients during testing

Patients are monitored by nurses during diagnostic testing. This includes monitoring their current medical condition, especially in those patients deemed unstable. They must check a patient's vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate), assess physical condition and keep an eye on any monitors that the patient needs to remain hooked up to during the tests, such as a heart monitor or ventilator. Nurses may also be required to connect or disconnect any monitors or devices that can interfere with the testing.

Reporting results

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Test results are reported to the patient's doctor, specialists and others in need of the information by nurses. Results may be phoned in, faxed or sent electronically via a computer. It may be the nurse’s responsibility to check for the results of the tests as well. They may be in charge of entering the results into the patient's medical record. Nurses must also notify the patient's physician when abnormal or critical results that require an immediate response, such as abnormal blood work with critical potassium levels, are found.


Rachel Dennis has been a health-care provider for many years. Writing since 1994, she has publications both online and in print. Dennis uses her experience in health care to help break down the medical world into terms that are easy to understand.

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