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Saving Lives: Perform a Focused Assessment

Use these three assessment tools to examine every patient thoroughly after you've stopped any immediate threats to life. Trauma victims are more common in the backcountry; start your inspection with a head-to-toe exam. For ill patients, begin by asking about medical history and taking vitals.
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HEAD-TO-TOE EXAM | VITAL SIGNS | PATIENT HISTORY

Gather a complete picture of a victim’s physical condition.

 

Do
>> Methodically apply pressure to all bones, move major joints, and check skin condition on each body part.

>> Express confidence and communicate what you’re doing at each step.

>> Use a firm touch—like squeezing an avocado—to locate wounds, swelling, painful regions,
or deformities.

>> Use all of your senses: Look, listen, feel, and smell for abnormalities.

>> Complete a full-body assessment before treating any non-life-threatening injuries (you don’t want to miss something now that could become a big problem later).

 

Don’t
>> Waste time and resources treating the first-identified injuries. Painful or obvious injuries may be superficial or less important than subtler ones.

>> Appear awkward, or communicate your own discomfort to the patient.

>> Use a tentative, light touch,
which may not uncover deformities, swelling, or other incident-related abnormalities.

>> Overlook medical history clues in pockets, packs, or on the victim (ID tags, insulin pumps, scars, etc.).

Be Systematic

Head-to-ToeFollow this order so you don’t miss a thing: (1) Head, neck, face; (2) clavicle, shoulders, chest/ribs; (3) abdomen, pelvis, groin; (4) lower extremities; (5) upper extremities; (6) back, buttocks, flanks.

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