ASSISTING WITH THE PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
The history and the physical exam provide much of the information known about
the patient's health status. As a practical nurse, you may be called upon to assist the
physician or other health care providers during a physical examination. You should
know the basics of the examination in order to have the appropriate equipment and
supplies on hand, and so that you may place the patient in the proper position and
drape him correctly.
PURPOSES FOR PERFORMING A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
The physical examination can be performed by the following health care providers:
a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. The health care provider makes
specific and general observations as he examines the patient from head to toe. The exam
should include the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat, neck, chest, breasts, abdomen, and
extremities. A vaginal or rectal examination is performed if indicated. The purposes for
performing a physical examination are:
a. To determine the patient's level of health or physiological function.
b. To arrive at a tentative diagnosis when there is a health problem or disease.
c. To confirm a diagnosis of disease or dysfunction.
d. To evaluate the effectiveness of prescribed medical treatment and therapy.
FUNCTIONS OF THE PRACTICAL NURSE DURING THE EXAMINATION
a. Ensure that the patient feels comfortable and is not embarrassed. Prior to the
examination, tell the patient what will take place and explain the reason for the procedure.
The patient who knows what to expect will be more relaxed and cooperative.
b. Ask the patient to void into a urine specimen cup in order to empty the bladder
and save the urine specimen for urinalysis. Have the patient put on a hospital gown so
that his body is more accessible for examination.
c. Arrange equipment and supplies. Be sure that you have everything needed
(see Table 1-1). Test all equipment to make certain that it works correctly.