Body temperature is one of the vital signs frequently measured in healthcare settings. Changes in a body temperature can indicate improvement or worsening of a patient’s condition, so accurate measurement is important.
Handwashing is considered the single most important practice to prevent the spread of infection. Even when hands look clean, they could potentially be crawling with dangerous microorganisms and pathogens. Using soap and friction during handwashing helps loosen the oils on the skin, allowing dirt and pathogens to be rinsed away.
Respiration is a vital sign that is measured frequently in the healthcare setting. Taking this measurement requires no equipment and relatively little time. However, it is a measurement that must be taken accurately, as a change in respiration may indicate the worsening of a patient’s condition.
The apical pulse rate is the most accurate non-invasive measurement of heart rate because it is measured directly over the apex of the heart. Apical pulse is preferred in cases when the radial pulse is difficult to palpate, when the pulse is irregular, greater than 100 beats per minute, or less than 60 beats per minute when measured by other means (electronic, radial, etc.).
The radial artery, located in the wrist, is easy to feel and an efficient location to measure heart rate. Changes to the rhythm or strength of the radial pulse can indicate heart disease, damage to the arm, or body fluid status. It is important to remember to check the radial pulse on both sides as differences between left and right can indicate injury or disease processes.
A tympanic membrane thermometer uses an infrared sensor to measure the temperature of the tympanic membrane (ear drum). This type of thermometer is considered an accurate and reliable predictor of a patient’s core temperature because the tympanic membrane’s blood supply is sourced from the carotid artery, which is the same artery that carries blood to the hypothalamus in the brain.
A rectal temperature provides the most accurate core body temperature reading compared to other non-invasive methods. This makes a rectal temperature desirable; however, this procedure comes with more patient discomfort and more safety risks (bowel perforation, mucosal damage, and/or vagus nerve stimulation) than the other temperature measurement methods.
Compared to other temperature measurement methods, the axillary measurement is considered the least reliable. An axillary temperature measurement typically reads 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit lower than an oral temperature reading . For this reason, it is recommended to use this method only when other methods are contraindicated or when taking an axillary temperature is the safest method for the patient.
Nail care of both the feet and the hands should be performed as part of the patient’s daily hygiene routine. The status of the patient’s nails can reflect their overall health. Nail issues can also lead to infection that can spread systemically (ex, ingrown nails or fungus). You should never clip a patient’s nails with nail clippers, and always review your institution’s policy about what nail care is allowed.
Perineal care should be performed during a bath, after using the bedpan, and/or after incontinence. Proper technique is important for maintaining hygiene, preventing infection, and avoiding skin breakdown. Because of the close proximity between a woman’s urethra, vagina, and anus, it is essential to only wipe in a front to back motion. Wiping in the opposite direction is associated with a greater risk for developing a urinary tract infection.
Bathing is an important part of a patient’s health routine. A partial bed bath focuses on bathing sensitive areas that cause discomfort if not cleansed frequently, such as the face, hands, axillae, back, and perineum. Though patients receiving a bed bath are typically confined to the bed, some are able to wash themselves and should be encouraged to do so to promote independence.
Many factors can interfere with obtaining an accurate blood pressure. The most common mistakes that lead to inaccurate blood pressures are a result of improper technique, including: not supporting the patient’s arm, using the wrong sized cuff, positioning the cuff too low on the patient’s arm, improper positioning of the cuff’s artery marker, and attempting to measure blood pressure through clothing.
If a patient is bedridden or on bedrest, the bed linens will need to be changed while the patient is in the bed. For safety reasons, the nurse’s aid should avoid making an occupied bed if the patient is able to get out of bed. Bed linens should be changed according to the facility’s policy or anytime they are wet or soiled.
Elastic stockings are worn to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and reduce the pooling of blood in vessels. Many hospitals and care facilities use elastic stockings in patients with reduced mobility, such as surgical patients and/or the elderly. There are a few risks in wearing elastic stockings; however, these risks can be prevented with proper application and care.
Patients who have suffered a stroke or have weakness or injury to one side of their body may struggle with dressing and undressing. In order to help these patients regain their strength and independence, it is important that the nurse’s aide only assist them as needed. The nurse’s aide may need to teach patients how to dress and undress safely with their limitations.
The position a patient is placed in is often ordered by the physician, or recommended by a speech, occupational, or physical therapist. The position dictates whether a patient is sitting, lying, standing; or if they are on their side, back, or prone (face-down). Positioning is also determined by the patient’s current needs, such as: Are they eating? Sleeping? Having surgery on their back? Are they receiving nutrition through a nasogastric tube?
Residents are usually kept in the center of the bed for safety reasons. However, moving a resident to the side of the bed is an important step to take before turning a resident onto his or her side. Performing this action allows the resident to end up side lying in the center of the bed and not smashed up against the side rail.
Supine position is a natural and comfortable position for most people. For this reason, it is a highly utilized position for nursing procedures. Unfortunately, this position puts pressure on many bony prominences that can lead to discomfort and/or pressure ulcers if the pressure is not relieved every so often (typically every two hours or less).
Prone position is not used as commonly as other patient positions. This position allows for full extension of the hips and the knees and gives many bony prominences a break from continuous pressure. However, placing patients in prone position does not come without the risks of pressure ulcers.
Walking (aka, ambulating) helps residents maintain mobility and independence, and prevents complications. However, ambulation must be done safely so that the resident does not have a fall or injury. A gait or transfer belt, when properly used, can increase resident safety. Gait belts can vary between facilities, so make sure you know how to use the one in your facility.
Fowler’s position is used when a patient is eating, is having difficulty breathing, or is ordered by a doctor. This position is easily recognized because the patient will be sitting äóìstraight up.äó Semi-Fowlers is sitting äóìhalf-way up,äó and is used when patients cannot be laid flat, but wishes to be in a more relaxed position than Fowler’s.
Patients with respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) find ways to help themselves breathe more easily. This can include sleeping with extra pillows to keep them propped up or leaning forward to ease the work of breathing. The orthopneic position is one forward-leaning position used to help patients breathe comfortably when they are having difficulty.
A mechanical lift is used to transfer residents who cannot support their own weight. When used properly, mechanical lifts prevent injuries for both residents and health care workers. It is important that a nurse’s assistant be trained to use the mechanical lift before attempting to operate it. Most facilities require at least two health care workers to assist when using a mechanical lift.
It is important to remember on which side to place the chair when assisting a patient in transferring. Putting the chair on the resident’s unaffected side allows the resident to lead with his or her strong extremity. This eases the procedure for the resident and reduces the risk of falling.
Having the resident sit on the side of the bed is otherwise referred to as dangling. When a resident quickly changes position, especially from lying to sitting or standing, there can be a rapid drop in the resident’s blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure may cause dizziness or lightheadedness.
When a resident is bed-bound, they must use a bedpan to urinate and defecate. This can be embarrassing for the resident, so it should be done with sensitivity to the resident’s privacy and dignity. There are two types of bedpans. A regular bedpan is the deeper and more rounded of the two. A fracture pan has a relatively flat upper end with a trough at the lower end. Fracture pans are used for residents who have difficulty, or restrictions against, moving their hips and/or backs.
Residents who have had a portion of their intestines removed due to illness or trauma may have a temporary or permanent ostomy, which is an opening in the abdomen that is created for the elimination of urine or feces. The portion of the intestine that is connected to the abdominal wall and is visible is called the stoma. A pouch is placed over the stoma to collect feces.
Range of motion exercises are used to help prevent or decrease contractures, improve flexibility of joints, and improve strength . Bedridden patients as well as those with reduced mobility may greatly benefit from passive range of motion exercises. However, do not perform these exercises without an order to do so, as it may be contraindicated in certain situations.
Not all patients will need help feeding themselves. Some patients will only need assistance opening cartons or cutting their food. To promote independence, always let the patient do as much as he or she can before assisting. It is vitally important that the nurse’s aide verifies that the patient receives the correct meal tray. Patients may have special diets that play a critical role in their health (i.e., pureed diet, gluten-free diet, food allergies, etc.). Feeding the wrong food to the wrong patient could result in serious complications.
Restraints have very strict guidelines for use due to the number of complications that can result. Use of restraints is associated with increased physical and psychosocial health issues. Restraints are only considered necessary when restraint-free alternatives have failed and the patient or others are at risk of harm without the restraints. It is illegal to use restraints for the staff’s convenience or to punish the patient.
Accurate measurement of urination (aka, the output portion of intake and output) allows medical personnel to assess kidney and bladder function. Changes in output quantity or quality can reflect health status changes including new-onset infection or renal injury.
Indwelling catheters allow urine to drain from the bladder. They are used when residents are unable to urinate on their own or when the process of cleaning the resident after urination would be difficult for the resident to tolerate (such as during end of life care). Caring for the catheter appropriately is a vital part of preventing infection and skin breakdown.
Perineal care should be performed during a bath, after using the bedpan, and/or after incontinence. Special care should be used when performing perineal care on an uncircumcised male. Failure to retract and wash the area under the foreskin can result in infection. Failure to return the foreskin to its normal position can result in paraphimosis.
It is important to follow the correct procedure while removing personal protective equipment to avoid contaminating your skin or clothing. The most common source of contamination in this process stems from improper removal of gloves. Gloves are often the most soiled piece of equipment. To avoid contaminating your skin or the other equipment worn, gloves should always be removed first. Then remove the goggles, gown, and mask, in that order.
Personal protective equipment is worn to protect the mouth, nose, eyes, clothing, and skin from unwanted pathogens. In the health care setting, a patient’s condition often prompts the use of personal protective equipment; however, a health care worker is able to wear personal protective equipment whenever he or she deems it is necessary (e.g., during procedures with the potential for excessive contact with bodily fluids).
The Heimlich Maneuver, also known as abdominal thrusts, is used to remove an object that is blocking a resident’s airway and preventing air from reaching the lungs. It only takes four to six minutes for brain damage to occur from lack of oxygen, so prompt action is vital.
Moving a patient from a bed to a stretcher can pose huge safety risks to both the patient and to the health care workers completing the transfer. Always use the appropriate amount of people to complete a transfer, which may vary according to the patient’s weight and/or the facility’s policy. In some cases, a mechanical lift may be needed.