Respiratory assessment

Simpson, Heidi (2006) Respiratory assessment. British journal of nursing, 15(9), pp. 484-488. ISSN (print) 0966-0461


The ability to carry out and document a full respiratory assessment is an essential skill for all nurses. The elements included are: an initial assessment, history taking, inspection, palpation, percussion, auscultation and further investigations. A prompt initial assessment allows immediate evaluation of severity of illness and appropriate treatment measures may warrant instigation at this point. Following this, a comprehensive patient history will be elicited. Clinical examination of the patient follows and involves inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation. At this point, consideration must be given to preparation of a light, warm, quiet, private environment for examination and suitable patient positioning. Inspection is a comprehensive visual assessment, while palpation involves using touch to gather information. The next stages are percussion and auscultation. While percussion is striking the chest to determine the state of underlying tissues, auscultation entails listening to and interpreting sound transmission through the chest wall via a stethoscope. Finally, further investigations may be necessary to confirm or negate suspected diagnoses.

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