Reflection: Vital Signs and Physical Assessment
Learning about vital signs and its importance for nurses has been enlightening. I have realized that vital sign assessment is an essential part in the determination of the health status of a patient. I have learnt that a nurse must use the right measurement techniques and have the required knowledge of the normal or required range in vital signs such as temperature, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure, to ensure proper monitoring of the patient. In addition, the proper monitoring of the patient through vital signs assessment means that the patients receive quality health care that improves their health (Cahill, 2010).
It was striking to me to learn that vital signs form the basis for the treatment plan and the type of care that a patient should receive. I learnt that vital signs assessment is important in monitoring the physiological variables of a patient, maintain a thorough assessment of inpatients and promote the early detection of illnesses and post-surgical complications. I also learnt that as a nurse, these important signs are necessary for life-sustenance and important in determining the patient’s health status and that vital signs are crucial indicators of physiological functioning (Van Kuiken & Huth, 2013). I have also realized that the assessment of vital signs in nursing is important and that nurses need to be trained on the right measurements and the knowledge required to interpret the vital signs. As a nurse, I have learnt that vital signs are important in assessing, monitoring, evaluating and documenting patient’s physiological status as well as the change in condition (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2015).
It was striking to learn that the frequency of the monitoring of vital signs is also important. I learnt that assessment of vital signs does not involve a one-time evaluation but rather it is a continuous practice needing the use of necessary methods by the nurse to achieve accuracy as well as consistency. Patients who are unstable or who have serious health conditions require continual monitoring of vital signs (Cahill, 2010). I have realized that monitoring of vital signs is important in identifying deterioration as well as adverse events. Learning about vital signs for me as a nurse is crucial in understanding complexity as presented in different patients. Without the knowledge of vital signs, as a practicing nurse, I cannot detect any adverse effects and deterioration early. Hence, I will fail on my part as a nurse to carry out an effective patient assessment.
I have realized that the physical assessment of a patient is an important process in the diagnosis and treatment processes in health care. I have learnt that when doing a physical assessment, it is necessary for a nurse to do a structured and intensive physical examination for an effort to achieve an accurate diagnosis. I have also learnt that physical assessment is important in understanding the general wellbeing of a patient, validating the complaints of the patient, monitoring the health problems of the patient and formulating the diagnosis and the treatment plan for the patient. After learning about the topic, I now know that a correct physical assessment enables a practitioner to plan a corresponding method of best delivering patient-centered care (Estes, 2013). It was enlightening to know that nurses just like other medical staff must have physical assessment skills because they are necessary for clinical competency.
The entire topic of physical assessment has equipped me with the knowledge on how to use the four diagnostic methods in clinical practice such as the use of senses and traditional tools in carrying out assessments. As a nurse, learning how to use these methods is important for me to understand objectively as well as perform a systematic evaluation of the patients. It was striking to me to learn about the modalities of physical examination such as inspection, percussion, auscultation and palpation and their importance in the diagnosis and treatment of a patient. I learnt that nurses are at the center of this assessment such that they must use their knowledge and skills to ensure quality care.
I have also learnt that a comprehensive patient assessment is not achievable without carrying out a physical examination. As a nurse, I have learnt that a full physical examination gives relevant patient information that forms the baseline data that can help the nurse in determining changes in the condition of the patient (Munroe et al., 2013). The change of patient condition can also help in measuring against and determining the treatment needs. I have realized that learning to perform a procedural physical assessment is one aspect that any nurse must perfect for a more efficient and accurate evaluation of the patient situation. It was striking to know that physical assessment depends on the setting such that it should be conducted where the nurse has access to the right tools such as proper lighting (AMN Healthcare Education Services, 2004).
Cahill K. (2010). Royal Prince Alfred Hospital observation (vital signs) policy. Sydney South West Area Health Service.
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2015). Vital signs: Core metrics for health and health care progress. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Estes, M. E. (2013). Health assessment and physical examination. Cengage Learning.
AMN Healthcare Education Services (2004). Overview of nursing health assessment. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from:
Munroe, B., Curtis, K., Considine, J., & Buckley, T. (2013). The impact structured patient assessment frameworks have on patient care: an integrative review.
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 1-15.
Van Kuiken, D., & Huth, M. (2013).What Is ‘Normal?’ Evaluating Vital Signs. Pediatric Nursing, 39(5):216-224.