The teaching of physical assessment skills in pre-registration nursing programmes in Australia: Issues for nursing education

Melanie Birks, Ainsley James, Catherine Chung, Robyn Cant, Jenny Davis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Health assessment is a fundamental aspect of the professional nursing role. The teaching of skills in physical assessment is therefore a large component of pre-registration nursing programmes. As the nursing curriculum becomes more crowded with what is deemed to be essential content, there is a need to rationalise what is taught in preparatory nursing programmes to ensure readiness for practice. The study outlined in this paper, as part of a larger project, explored the teaching of physical assessment skills in pre-registration nursing programmes across Australia. Fifty-three academics completed the 121 item online survey, indicating whether each skill was taught with practice, taught with no practice or not taught at all. The results suggest that only half the skills were being taught by more than 80% of the academics and 23 skills (19%) were taught by more than 90%. Of the 121 skills commonly taught - 69 skills (57%) were taught with student practice and 29 (24%) were taught with no student practice. The results of this study raise questions about the teaching of physical assessment in pre-registration nursing programmes. The suggestion is not that skills that are used regularly or infrequently should be removed from the curriculum, rather, the authors propose that consideration be given to whether the teaching of skills that are never likely to be used is occurring at the expense of comprehensive mastery of core skills.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)245-253
    Number of pages9
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Health assessment
    • Nursing assessment
    • Physical assessment skills
    • Undergraduate nursing education

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