Assessing deteriorating patients: what you need to know

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Our podcast explores how early warning scores can alert you if escalation of care is required, and why respiratory rate in particular can pick up signs of deterioration

Photo of nurse checking patient data on a tablet, which can inform a care decision
Checking patient data can inform a care decision. Picture: iStock

How do you use early warning scores to optimum effect when assessing a deteriorating patient?

When should you refer a person in your care to a more senior member of the team, and in what circumstances must you immediately escalate a case?

The latest episode of the Nursing Standard podcast discusses these issues as we explore early warning scores.

Tools such as the National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) help nurses and other healthcare professionals to assess when a patient’s condition is worsening by following a structured and prioritised approach, such as airway, breathing, circulation, disability and exposure (ABCDE), and their scores indicate what action to take.

Pay close attention to respiratory rate

In this episode we hear from Cardiff University senior lecturer in adult nursing Andy Parry, who has a background in critical care and anaesthetics, and regularly teaches students about early warning scores.

Mr Parry talks to RCNi senior nurse editor Richard Hatchett about what the different scales of the early warning scores mean and the importance of a thorough assessment. The pair also discuss why respiratory rate is a sensitive indicator of deterioration, and how it can pick up signs of possible impending cardiac arrest sooner than alterations in blood pressure.

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