Importance of Skin Assessment in Elderly and Child Abuse, comment

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Skin assessment is a more valuable tool than we give it credit or time for. There are so many clues to a long list of health issues; from the varience in color, turgor, texture, temperature and thickness, to hair distribution, and condition of the nails.  All of these variances from norm could be linked to some health issue.  Issues like nutritional deficiency, allergy, local or systemic disease; such as melanoma or systemic lupus erythematosus; or they could be signs or the ‘remnants’ of abuse.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the nurse on the floor routinely gives skin assessment the time or attention needed to pick up on these clues.  The most opportune time to find these signs would be on admission, during the initial assessment. What I see on the floor, is short staffing more often than not, trying to care for more patients than can be fully cared for during their shift, and bed shortages, requiring ‘quick’ turnover.  I am also afraid that the gains in my staffing numbers over the past year are in jeopardy with the reforms and cuts in reimbursement that I think are coming. Thorough assessments are an essential part of health care, of preventative medicine, and all of our professional practices; so I truly hope there will be the time and ability going forward to complete this valuable task.

Original Post

May 26, 2009

Title: Importance of Skin Assessment in Elderly and Child Abuse

In studying skin assessment, one cannot help feeling overwhelmed. Without a desire to pursue dermatology, the unlimited amount of skin lesions, pustules, macules and papules can lead one to skim over information out of the pure necessity for mental sanity. The mind can only hold so many pictures at once. However, I do see the need to ensure the memorization and ability to recognize and diagnose normal skin variations. In reading articles and working with children and the elderly, one unfortunately sees the reality firsthand of physical abuse and neglect. This can often be recognized by assessing the skin. Breakdown, malnutrition, physical abuse, bruises, injuries at different stages of healing can all be noted by a thorogh assessment of the skin. As follow up care and the big picture should always be a part of our thought process in nursing assessment, the ability to note whether a skin assessment finding is simply normal or abnormal is vital to our practice.

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