The use of physical assessment skills by registered nurses in Australia: issues for nursing education.

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Learning and Teaching Education Research Centre, Central Queensland University, Noosa Campus, Queensland 4566, Australia.
Collegian Journal of the Royal College of Nursing Australia (Impact Factor: 0.73). 01/2013; 20(1):27-33. DOI: 10.1016/j.colegn.2012.02.004
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of pre-service nursing education programs is to prepare competent graduates who are able to function as safe, professional registered nurses. An extensive element of these programs is the teaching of physical assessment skills, with most programs educating students to perform over 120 such skills. Previous research from North America suggests that the majority of skills taught to nurses in their pre-service programs are not used in practice. As part of a larger study, an online survey was used to explore use of 121 physical assessment skills by Australian nurses. Recruitment occurred via mailed invitation to members of the Australian Nursing Federation. Data were extracted from 1220 completed questionnaires returned by nurses who were mostly employed in New South Wales, were female and experienced nurses. Respondents indicated that they used only 34% of skills routinely. Results reinforce evidence found in the literature that many of the skills taught to nurses are either not used at all (35.5%) or are used rarely (31%). These findings have implications for the teaching of physical assessment skills in pre-service nursing programs, and raise questions about the value of extensive skills teaching in the context of contemporary health care. Further research into barriers to the use of physical assessment skills in nursing and the need for comprehensive skills preparation for the generalist nurse is likely to offer some solutions to these questions.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: AimTo develop and psychometrically test the Barriers to Nurses’ use of Physical Assessment Scale.Background There is growing evidence of failure to recognize hospitalized patients at risk of clinical deterioration, in part due to inadequate physical assessment by nurses. Yet, little is known about the barriers to nurses’ use of physical assessment in the acute hospital setting and no validated scales have been published.DesignInstrument development study.Method Scale development was based on a comprehensive literature review, focus groups, expert review and psychometric evaluation. The scale was administered to 434 acute care Registered Nurses working at a large Australian teaching hospital between June and July 2013. Psychometric analysis included factor analysis, model fit statistics and reliability testing.ResultsThe final scale was reduced to 38 items representing seven factors, together accounting for 57·7% of the variance: (1) reliance on others and technology; (2) lack of time and interruptions; (3) ward culture; (4) lack of confidence; (5) lack of nursing role models; (6) lack of influence on patient care; and (7) specialty area. Internal reliability ranged from 0·70–0·86.Conclusion Findings provide initial evidence for the validity and reliability of the Barriers to Nurses’ use of Physical Assessment Scale and point to the importance of understanding the organizational determinants of nurses’ assessment practices. The new scale has potential clinical and research applications to support nursing assessment in acute care settings.
    Journal of Advanced Nursing 04/2014; · 1.53 Impact Factor


Available from
Jun 2, 2014