Physical assessment competencies for nurses: A quality improvement initiative

Nicole M Fontenot, Shannan K Hamlin, Steven J Hooker, Theresa Vazquez, Hsin-Mei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As the only healthcare providers caring for hospitalized patients every hour of every day, nurses have a responsibility to keep patients safe. Physical assessment is a basic but essential nursing skill that fosters patient safety. Assessing a patient's current status enables nurses to recognize early patient deterioration. Contemporary nursing practice relies on vital signs and technology to aid in the detection of patient deterioration. The aim is to describe the Methodist Proficient Assessment Competency (MPAC© ) quality improvement initiative. Surveys and directly observed patient assessment data were used to evaluate attitudes and practices. One hundred and seventy-nine pre-MPAC audits were conducted, followed by 1391 post-MPAC audits. Pre- compared with post-MPAC audits showed significant improvements in complete physical assessments (78% vs. 94%; p < .001), timeliness (within 4 h; 64% vs. 91%; p < .001) and accuracy (67% vs. 95%; p < .001) of documentation. In conclusion, nurses have a responsibility to quickly identify changes in a patient's condition and intervene to prevent serious adverse events. Taking the needed time to perform a full physical assessment at the beginning of the shift along with timely and accurate documentation, allows nurses to acquire the knowledge they need to establish a patient's current clinical status and usual behaviors, thereby facilitating early recognition of subtle changes that could indicate deterioration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-716
Number of pages7
JournalNursing forum
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 17 2022
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • clinical deterioration
  • failure to rescue
  • physical assessment
  • quality improvement
  • Quality Improvement
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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