Physical Assessment Skills: A Descriptive Study of What is Taught and What is Practiced

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The purpose of this study was to investigate physical assessment skills taught in undergraduate baccalaureate nursing programs and the physical assessment skills used by practicing nurses. Twelve educators teaching physical assessment and 51 practicing nurses were surveyed on 120 physical assessment skills listed in standard nursing textbooks. Median scores were computed on all the skills. The educators taught all of the skills, 92.5% of the skills were taught and practiced in class and 7.5% were taught but not practiced. For the practicing nurses, 37% of the skill were never used, 29% were used on a daily/weekly basis, with 34% used on a monthly/occasional basis. Based on these findings, we recommend that the content of physical assessment courses be reevaluated, with courses focusing on what nurses need to know to practice nursing.

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