Health & Wellness

The Importance Of Advanced Health Assessments To Society

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle but the stats on chronic disease do not necessarily reflect this shift. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, seems to have woken many people up, leading them to be more aware of their overall health and immunity levels. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of people planning to change their lives to prioritize their health and well-being.

To fully make a shift to healthy living, you will need input from healthcare professionals. Registered nurses (RNs) are often the ones who carry out health assessments in clinics or hospital settings. They play a crucial role in promoting self-care options and improving health behaviors in the short and long term. These assessments go beyond mere documentation and serve as a foundation for initiating conversations about someone’s health, as well as engaging patients in participating in their own health and lifestyle choices.

Advanced health assessments are a pivotal part of the practice of nurse practitioners (NPs). As autonomous healthcare providers, NPs rely on advanced health assessments to evaluate the needs of patients and decide on the most effective treatments. There are several ways in which advanced health assessments can be significant for a healthy society.

What is an advanced health assessment?

This is a structured process that involves evaluating the physical, functional and mental aspects of a person’s health. It serves as a fundamental diagnostic tool for NPs and it is the foundation of patient care. By collecting subjective and objective information using advanced health assessments, NPs can determine a patient’s health status, make accurate diagnoses, understand the patient’s health risks, and validate their clinical decisions.

An advanced health assessment typically includes two key components:

Health history

In most cases, the initial step in undertaking an advanced health assessment is obtaining the patient’s health history. NPs gather this information by examining medical records and conducting interviews with the patient or their caregiver. Health history often encompasses various aspects of the patient’s health background including allergies, immunizations, illnesses, surgeries, medications, any physical exams they have had and their habits in relation to diet and exercise. An assessment may also cover biopsychosocial, military, economic, travel, environmental, family or occupational information.

Physical examination

After obtaining a person’s health history, NPs usually proceed with the physical examination, which enables them to identify physical signs and symptoms of medical conditions. This examination can help NPs make a specific diagnosis or determine additional steps required for further investigation. The physical exam encompasses the examination of different body systems, and NPs often tailor it to address specific patient problems. Additionally, it allows NPs to assess the patient’s functional and mental health, identifying physical issues associated with mental disorders and evaluating the patient’s ability to engage in day-to-day activities.

Types of health assessments

Advanced health assessments can be categorized into two key types: complete health assessments and problem-focused assessments. Complete health assessments involve a thorough evaluation of a patient’s health history and a complete head-to-toe physical exam. A problem-focused assessment often comes in the context of a medical “specialty” and focuses on specific care goals, such as cardiac or respiratory health.

Within these categories, there are also sub-categories of health assessments. Interval/abbreviated assessments, for example, involve a quick but thorough evaluation and are often performed when a patient has been seen by the same nurse previously or during shift changes. Special population assessments, on the other hand, require specific skills and knowledge and involve assessing certain patient groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, children and infants.

While health assessments primarily focus on the biological and physiological attributes of a patient, it is important for nurses to also pay attention to non-verbal cues. Picking up on cues – such as a patient’s unwillingness to answer questions or avoiding eye contact – can provide valuable insights into their overall health and well-being.

Preparing for a nursing role involving advanced health assessments

As nurses go through their training, they gain a deeper understanding of the significance of comprehensive health assessments. As part of the core curriculum of an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner (APRN) course, Advanced Health Assessment is a required course in all NP training programs. The course provides students with a comprehensive understanding of health assessment across a patient’s lifespan. It covers various aspects including assessing physical, mental and functional health, as well as the different approaches needed in relation to different cultures.

Universities have to have courses designed to enhance nurses’ skills in considering a patient’s history, conducting interviews, performing physical assessments and developing effective nursing diagnoses. Currently, there are courses such as the BSN to DNP-FNP program online with no GRE requirement, offered by Marymount University. These programs emphasize the importance of professionalism in nursing as well as patient advocacy, as they are important tenets of conducting a health assessment. The courses help students to expand the data collection skills they need in advanced nursing practice.

Nurses have to be equipped to gather comprehensive health histories and conduct comprehensive physical exams on patients of all ages. They also have to be able to carry out physical exams in a logical order, ensuring accurate data collection while considering patient comfort. Advanced training helps nurses learn to engage with patients in a receptive and supportive manner while they are doing the assessment, collecting and interpreting data, and relaying information. Additionally, they learn to use functional assessment techniques, demonstrate awareness of cultural differences during health assessments, and utilize major cognitive assessment tests.

While education and training are essential, gaining practical experience is equally valuable in improving nursing competency. Seeking advice from colleagues, supervisors or mentors and repeatedly practicing health assessments can greatly enhance a nurse’s skills and expertise. As more and more people recognize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, the process of undertaking health assessments will continue to advance. By fostering a sense of teamwork between patients and healthcare professionals, these assessments can make a positive contribution to our collective well-being.

If you are a nurse looking to enhance your skills in undertaking health assessments, pursuing an online DNP-FNP program can be highly beneficial. These programs give you an added advantage as you’ll be able to:

Explore best practice:

The certification program allows nurses to delve into best practice in relation to health assessments, ensuring they stay up to date with the latest advancements.

Enhance your skills:

Carrying out health assessments is a critical task for nurses and midwives. The program helps nurses develop extensive and advanced health assessment practices, enabling them to provide comprehensive care to their patients.

Carry out in-depth patient evaluations:

The program provides nurses with the skills to ask a wide range of questions about a patient’s health and conduct a thorough physical evaluation. By incorporating bio-psycho-social-spiritual considerations, nurses can gather more detailed information and understand how a patient’s beliefs can affect their healthcare experience.

Interpret clinical findings:

Nurses enrolled in the certification program learn to interpret clinical interviews, physical evaluations, laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures. This skill is crucial in recognizing potential health problems and offering appropriate interventions.

Document findings:

The program emphasizes the importance of documentation and equips nurses with the necessary skills to interpret and document findings accurately. This ensures effective communication and continuity of care within the healthcare team.

Updates in advanced health assessments

Procedures relating to advanced health assessments are continually evolving with advancements in medical and nursing science. Most online DNP-FNP programs incorporate the most current information and techniques to ensure that students are equipped to offer quality care as future NPs. There are many ways in which new advancements have influenced best practice in health assessment in order to enhance patient outcomes.

Embracing the nine wellness dimensions

The increasingly complex nature of healthcare calls for a comprehensive approach to health assessment. To address this, healthcare providers are encouraged to incorporate a well-being assessment, founded on nine wellness dimensions, into every physical exam. These nine dimensions cover physical, social, emotional, environmental, financial, spiritual, intellectual, career and creative aspects of wellness. By assessing all these dimensions, healthcare providers can obtain a holistic view of the patient’s well-being, leading to more precise conclusions and better management of health concerns.

Increasing hypertension screening

In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force  updated its guidelines on hypertension screening. They currently recommend expanding screening to all people aged 18 and above. This expanded screening aims to identify people who may be unaware of their likely risk for heart attacks or strokes due to hypertension. Healthcare providers are advised to check for high blood pressure when doing visits.

Making use of tools to screen opioid use

The increasing prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) and related deaths necessitates the use of effective screening tools. Nurses, including NPs, can play a vital role in addressing the crisis of opioid overdose by promoting OUD screening and appropriate treatment. Several screening tools have proven effective, including: the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT); the Prescription Drug Use Questionnaire (PDUQ); and the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) approach. Integrating these screening tools into advanced health assessments can help evaluate patients for OUD and contribute to improved patient outcomes.

How nurses contribute to a healthy future society

Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare system, particularly in health promotion and disease prevention. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, they are well-equipped to educate, treat and advocate for patients. As the largest group of healthcare professionals, nurses are at the forefront of addressing ongoing public health challenges. They have frequent and prolonged contact with patients, giving them a unique perspective on the issues affecting society. Nurses consequently have a range of responsibilities in relation to promoting health, carrying out health assessments and preventing diseases.

They act as a health educators

Nurses are often recognized as the primary caregivers in various healthcare settings. They provide hands-on care to patients and work closely with them to ensure holistic and optimal outcomes. One of the most critical roles of nurses is that of an educator. They spend a significant amount of time with patients, asking questions and providing guidance on immunizations, nutrition, medications and safety measures. By talking to, and educating, patients and their families, nurses help prevent illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obstructive pulmonary disease. Through education, risk prevention and safety monitoring, nurses actively contribute to the promotion of health and the prevention of disease.

They act as health promoters

Nurses are uniquely qualified to take on the role of health promoters due to their extensive knowledge and skills in health education. Their professional development focuses on health assessments and preventative measures, making them valuable assets in promoting the well-being of individuals and communities. National options for gaining credentials, such as becoming a certified health education specialist, can further enhance their competencies. Nurses can assess health education needs, plan and implement programs, conduct research, coordinate services, and effectively communicate information about health resources to many different groups. Their expertise extends to specialized fields including occupational, environmental and public health nursing.

They can build trust in culturally diverse communities

Cultural diversity presents challenges when it comes to promoting health and preventing diseases. Nurses must be aware of, and sensitive to, cultural considerations in order to effectively engage with different ethnic groups. It is crucial to establish trust and mutual respect through effective communication and culturally appropriate planning and implementation of programs and education. Nurses can employ active listening, clarification and reflection techniques to overcome communication barriers and avoid stereotyping. By fostering trust, nurses can bridge cultural gaps and promote health and wellness in many different communities.

Advanced health assessments continue to advance

All these factors indicate that advanced health assessments play a pivotal role in promoting patient well-being and improving healthcare outcomes. By obtaining comprehensive patient information, nurses can make accurate diagnoses, select appropriate interventions, and provide quality care. Pursuing a nursing course which covers health assessments in detail offers numerous benefits, including enhancing the skills and critical thinking abilities which enable nurses to carry out in-depth patient evaluations.

Health2Wellness

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