The Advantages of Head-to-Toe Assessment

Written by lynda lampert
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The Advantages of Head-to-Toe Assessment
Assessing the patient the same way every time ensures accuracy. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The basic assessment all nurses are taught is the head-to-toe assessment. There are many advantages to this approach to assessing patients, and not many disadvantages. It keeps a nurse organised, ensures a thorough exam, is sequential and is easy on the patient. Some nurses may chafe at the rigidity of the technique, but by doing it the same way every single time, a nurse can be sure that she will perform perfect assessments every time. That means she won't miss anything. That means patients will be safe.

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Conducting a head-to-toe assessment ensures that a nurse is thorough in her assessment of the patient. By starting at the head and working her way down to the feet, she makes sure that she does not miss any of the major body systems. This type of assessment means that a nurse is checking all systems for abnormalities and is less likely to miss any problems the patient may have.


The head-to-toe assessment follows a logical sequence. It starts at the head and neck, moves on to the chest, then to the abdomen. It is easy to remember and makes sense for a nurse who is just starting out. The assessment is also second nature for those who have been nurses for years. Its chain of thinking makes sense and can keep a nurse on track, so that she does not forget any of the important parts of her assessment.

Decreases Position Change

The patient does not have to make very many position changes with the head-to-toe assessment. This can be of vital importance when dealing with critical patients or working on patients who are very sick. It would not be advantageous for a nurse to jump all around and ask the patient to turn over five times, when she could ask them to do it once. This way, the nurse concentrates on one area and then moves on to the next.


This form of assessment helps a nurse stay organised and to not forget things in her assessment. It helps her to not miss important data and even helps her with writing her notes. If a nurse writes down assessment data in a head-to-toe fashion, she will not forget to document anything. Head-to-toe assessment is like a portable file cabinet. The technique helps a nurse keep things organised in her head and to organise her flow sheets efficiently.

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