Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Physical Examination

  • Margaret Hammersla
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_133



Physical examination, assessment, is the systematic process of collecting data about a patient or client using the techniques of inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation to guide a clinician in the process of diagnosis of pathological states as well as developing a plan of care (Fennessey & Wittmann-Price, 2011). Physical assessment is an ongoing process that enables the clinician to continuously evaluate a patient’s signs and symptoms, to monitor effectiveness of treatment, and to make adjustments in the plan of care as required (Zambas, 2010). This physical assessment is conducted in a systematic manner that is comfortable to both the patient and clinician; typically this is done using a head-to-toe approach.

Physical assessment is done for one of two reasons. The first reason is to conduct a complete physical exam of the entire body in order to screen the patient for potential health problems that have not yet...

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References and Readings

  1. Bickley, L. S., & Szilagy, P. G. (2008). Bates’ guide to physical examination and history taking (10th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Google Scholar
  2. Fennessey, A., & Wittmann-Price, R. A. (2011). Physical assessment: A continuing need for clarification. Nursing Forum, 46(1), 45–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Stern, S. D. C., Cifu, A. S., & Altkorn, D. (2009). Symptom to diagnosis: An evidence based guide (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.Google Scholar
  4. Zambas, S. I. (2010). Purpose of the systematic physical assessment in everyday practice: Critique of a “sacred cow”. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(6), 305–310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Maryland School of NursingBaltimoreUSA