Nursing Assessment of the Integumentary System

by Samantha Rhea, MSN, RN

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    00:01 Now, let's move on to one of the biggest organs of the patient's body, which is our integumentary system.

    00:07 Now, as we move through our head to toe assessment, we're going to be looking at color, volume consistency of the patient's skin, surface appearance and even include the nails because believe it or not, that can tell us a lot.

    00:21 So we're talking about looking at our patients general appearance.

    00:24 We need to look at: Are they obese? Are they emaciated? We need to assess someone's body mass index.

    00:32 Believe it or not, that can actually give us a lot of information and care planning.

    00:36 Now, it's important to note for example, if they're emaciated? This could mean that we've got to have a nutrition consult to assess the patient's needs.

    00:44 Now, knowing this can help us better plan for our care, and also give appropriate equipment for patient support.

    00:52 Now, don't forget when we're talking about a skin assessment.

    00:55 Color is an easy indicator that something's going on.

    00:59 So don't forget, if you see a cyanosis or a bluish color in any of the patient's extremities, this can mean that there's not enough oxygenation to the patient's fingers, their toes, or lips or face, for example. And this is an emergency.

    01:14 So next, you may see erythema or a really fancy word, which is an area of redness.

    01:21 Now, this can happen for a couple of different reasons.

    01:24 This can be from irritation, it can be from injury.

    01:27 Now here is a really important point to note.

    01:30 If you see erythema on any pressure points, or bony prominences, such as the coccyx, back of the shoulders, maybe the heels, for example, and you see this redness, that could be an early indicator that the patient may have a pressure ulcer that's starting to grow.

    01:48 If that's the case, we've got to assess and intervene early.

    01:52 Now, next, pigmentation.

    01:54 There can be changes that can be from birthmark, radiation therapy, rosacea or other disease processes.

    02:01 So just make sure you note this and assess and document appropriately.

    02:05 Now here's an important point on skin color to make sure that you keep in mind as a nurse.

    02:11 So you may see something called jaundice, kind of like you see in this image here.

    02:16 You see on one side the patient's normal skin color, and on the other side, it's more of a yellow.

    02:21 Now this is a buildup of bilirubin.

    02:24 And just if you recall, you may see this really often in babies because they're not quite mature enough to get rid of that bilirubin on their own.

    02:33 So sometimes you may see a special light to help with this.

    02:36 And also in your patients with alcoholism or severe history.

    02:41 You may see jaundice because of liver damage.

    02:44 So some additional skin abnormalities that we want to consider is varicose veins.

    02:50 Now, these can be pretty uncommon in patients with, oh, actually nurses that stain on their feet a lot, factory workers, even patients that are pregnant.

    02:59 So one thing to note about varicose veins, these are usually pretty benign.

    03:04 They're not usually a life threatening thing, but however they can cause some discomfort.

    03:10 So the issue with these is that blood can pull in these areas and they can put them at a little bit more increased risk for clotting.

    03:17 Now, speaking of clots, let's look at this image of swelling.

    03:21 So you see how the one leg is really large.

    03:25 Now, you see there's unilateral largeness and swelling in one leg.

    03:29 This can mean a couple of things.

    03:31 The patient may have what we call a DVT, or a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the patient's leg, or it could be that there's a skin infection that got really infected and inflamed, and we call this cellulitis.

    03:45 Both of these are really important to note and then these quick treatment by the provider.

    03:51 Now next, there can be some various skin changes.

    03:54 This can be from irritation, medications, or diseases.

    03:59 So one thing to note, if you're talking about a patient with venous disease, they may have some redness, some irritation on the shins or around their ankles, or around their calves, for example.

    04:11 Now, some patients with arterial disease, you'll kind of see the legs get dark purplish, shiny, kind of tough, that is a good indicator on assessment that this is arterial disease in your patient.

    04:24 And lastly, there can be ulcers which are really a big deal.

    04:28 This can actually be from venous issues, arterial issues, or just pressure ulcers, especially at the heel.

    04:36 Now, these can be very painful. They can be dangerous.

    04:39 And they need special and prompt attention.

    04:43 Some additional considerations when we're talking about assessing a patient's skin is looking at some consistency factors.

    04:50 So one of those is moisture if there's excess moisture or the patient is sweating or what we call diaphoresis.

    04:58 Next is temperature.

    04:59 So something to really note that if there's a particular area, especially like a surgical incision, and we touch the patient's skin, and it's really hot around those areas.

    05:10 That could be something to know and could indicate infection.

    05:14 Now, just note on the opposite end, that let's say you're assessing a patient, feet for example.

    05:20 And they have arterial disease, meaning lack of blood flow or limited blood flow to their legs.

    05:26 Now, if we touch or assess the patient's lower legs and feet, and it's really abnormally cold, this could mean that there's poor perfusion.

    05:35 And we also want to note this to the health care provider.

    05:38 So texture is a little bit different.

    05:40 Some patients have different textures to their skin, but you want to talk with your patient and see if this is normal for them, or something that needs to be addressed.

    05:50 And lastly, turgor is also an important consideration when we're talking about hydration status of our patient.

    05:57 Now, you see here, the image is at the back of the patient's hand.

    06:01 Now, as you can imagine overtime, especially with aging, the skin behind the hand can get kind of loose.

    06:07 So ideally, it's best to assess this by the patient's chest wall, grabbing the patient's and pinching up a little skin, pulling it back and releasing.

    06:16 So this should snap back rather quickly.

    06:19 And this means that there's good hydration and a good hydration status for your patient.

    06:24 But if you pinch-up the skin, and then you let it go, and it's kind of slow to return to normal, that may mean that the patient is severely dehydrated, and we need to address this.

    06:35 So, another thing to keep in mind when we're talking about the skin, and we're assessing this is especially looking at the surface.

    06:43 Are there any wounds? Are there any lesions? So if you take a look at this image, if you see any sort of asymmetry to the lesion, if it's an abnormal color, if the diameter has changed, if the border is oddly shaped, this is something that you may encourage the actual patient to follow up with a healthcare provider to see if this is a cancerous lesion or something that's benign.

    07:10 So next, let's talk about nails.

    07:12 So you may not think that this is something that's really that important.

    07:16 But it actually can tell us a lot about the nutritional status of the patient if they've gotten infections, or had traumas, or even if there's long-term oxygenation problems with the patient.

    07:28 So if you take a look at this image, you see this purplish color in the nail, that usually could mean like trauma, for example.

    07:35 I know one of my nails turn purple when I accidentally shut my nail on the car door, for example.

    07:41 So next is yellowing.

    07:43 So this is actually important because this can mean that your patient has nutritional or a vitamin deficiency.

    07:49 Or it could even indicate that there's a fungal infection that needs to be treated.

    07:55 Now next, in the middle of this slide, you see what we call clubbing.

    07:59 So you see how if you look at the nail, it's normal, it's pretty flat.

    08:04 But if you see this distorted kind of a raised nail bed, we call that clubbing and that's usually indicates that the patient has had long-term oxygenation issues.

    08:16 This is commonly going to be seen with our patients who have COPD.

    08:21 Now next, looking at texture with our patient.

    08:24 Now, if you look at the patient's nails, and they're brittle, and like really ridges and bumpy or broken, this can mean that there's also nutritional deficiencies or long-term disease.

    08:38 So moving along with our head to toe assessment, as you can imagine, there may be various drains, or tubes, or IV lines that must be assessed by us as nursing.

    08:48 So it's really important to check the insertion or that surgical site.

    08:53 So we've got to look for signs of infection in the cleanliness around that site, any odd discharger like you see here on this image, is there any odd discharge on the dressing? Is there any redness around the insertion site? You see weird pus or drainage coming out.

    09:11 All of this is especially important with any sort of drain tube or IV line and you need to report that immediately.

    09:19 So sometimes you've got to communicate with your healthcare provider.

    09:23 Sometimes this indicates that that drain, tube, or IV line must be removed.

    09:31 And next, when you're talking about assessing any sort of drains or tubes, for example, it's really important that we maintain those appropriately.

    09:39 Now, what I mean by this is if you look in this image here, you see a very common surgical drain that usually comes from an incision.

    09:48 So this is gonna help collect any excess drainage or blood.

    09:52 Now, the one you see in this image is very common, and we call this a JP drain or a Jackson-Pratt drain.

    09:58 Now, when you're looking at maintaining drains or tubes, any drain such as this, you want to make sure there's no kinks in the tubing is not being pulled on.

    10:09 Many times this is collecting excess fluid from that specific incision.

    10:13 Also depending on the equipment, there may be a certain mechanism for suction.

    10:18 So make sure this is applied, if appropriate.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Nursing Assessment of the Integumentary System by Samantha Rhea, MSN, RN is from the course Assessment of the Integumentary System (Nursing).

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Cyanosis
    2. Erythema
    3. Varicose veins
    4. Venous insufficiency
    1. Erythema on a client’s heel
    2. Cyanosis on a client’s fingers
    3. Jaundice on a client’s abdomen
    4. Unilateral swelling to a client’s right leg
    1. By pinching the skin of the client’s chest wall, releasing it, and seeing how long the skin takes to return to normal
    2. By pressing on the client’s nail, releasing, and seeing how long it takes for color to return to the nail bed
    3. By looking at the inside of the client’s lips and eyelids and noting the color
    4. By pulling down gently on the client’s earlobe and assessing how long it takes to recoil
    1. Nutritional or vitamin deficiency
    2. Fungal infection
    3. Liver cirrhosis
    4. Hypoxia
    5. Hyperkalemia
    1. “Assessing any intravenous lines, drains or ports that my client has is part of the integumentary system assessment.”
    2. “If the area of skin around a surgical incision or wound is hot to touch, this could be an indicator of infection.”
    3. “It is normal for older clients to have clubbed nails.”
    4. “I should assess my client for skin lesions that are symmetrical with regular borders, as they may be cancerous.”
    5. "Jaundice presents as yellow pigmentation of the skin and is an indicator of congestive heart failure"

    Author of lecture Nursing Assessment of the Integumentary System

     Samantha Rhea, MSN, RN

    Samantha Rhea, MSN, RN

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