Introduction to Patient Assessment

A thorough patient assessment is the basis from which the EMS professional makes treatment decisions. Without a through and proper assessment patients may be misdiagnosed and suffer harm up to and including severe disability and/or death.

Patient assessment begins with a foundation in human anatomy and physiology, where things are and how they work. Once understanding of A&P the practitioner can then begin to assess for abnormalities in the body’s function.

The next most important thing for patient assessment is a routine! A thorough assessment includes elements of the practitioners approach, a physical exam and a medical history. Any missing components may lead the practitioner down the wrong treatment path. A professional practitioner completes the patient assessment in the same way following the same sequence each time it is done. Leaving aside the differences between Medical and Trauma assessments for now, a physical assessment is completed from the head to the toe!

Ok now the caviats…A trauma physical is a full hands on assessment of each portion of the patient looking for any life threatening conditions. A medical physical consists of observation with select palpation and auscultation checking for any conditions that could further complicate the patients condition. And lets not forget pediatric patients, due to their reaction to practitiones they often must be assessed starting peripherally (usually at the feet) and assessed toward the head.