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Respiratory Failure: Signs and Diagnosis (Nursing)

by Rhonda Lawes

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    00:00 So if I'm watching a patient for signs of respiratory problems, what should I look for? Well if the patient tells you they're short of breath, wow all hands on deck let's start paying attention in assessing further to know what's going on.

    00:14 Watch their respiratory rate.

    00:17 Sometimes the patient's respiratory rate can be faster because they're anxious.

    00:21 That may not be a sign of respiratory failure, but a lot of times an elevated respiratory rate is because things are not going well internally in their lungs until the brain is telling them to breathe faster, breathe faster, breathe faster.

    00:33 Eventually, they're gonna tire out if it's elevated high enough and long enough.

    00:39 Now if they look like they're really restless, has labored breathing and they look like they just cannot catch their breath, that's what air hunger looks like, there's a really key sign that your patient's in trouble.

    00:51 Restlessness or agitation, hey pay attention to that "restlessness" word, that tends to show up in nursing questions a lot.

    00:59 So when you see restless, always think about oxygenation.

    01:03 When a patient just can't seem to get settled, always try and check how well they're oxygenating.

    01:08 And if they start to have some changes, mental status changes or little bit confused or they're always sleepy, that could be another red flag you want to watch for.

    01:18 So as a nurse, this slide has a lot of really good information for you, these are the things you don't want to miss.

    01:25 You want to catch them when they happen early.

    01:27 So the patient tells you they're short of breath or you observe.

    01:31 Hey, their respiratory rate is really high, it's even higher than when they came in.

    01:36 They don't look like they're very comfortable, looks like it's hard for them to catch their breath.

    01:40 They seem to be getting more restless and fidgety in the bed, they're agitated and now they seem somewhat confused.

    01:46 Those are huge red alerts that your patient is heading into respiratory problems.

    01:52 Now what are the common tests that we do? Well the most common thing's we already talked about in ABG, right? That's drawing an arterial blood gas sample from an artery, different than most lab work is drawn from a vein.

    02:04 Now an arterial blood stick is a little trickier.

    02:07 You have to have special training for that, so it will usually be done by a phlebotomist but nurses in critical care areas and ER are often trained to draw ABGs.

    02:16 A CBC is a complete blood count.

    02:19 I may be looking for things on that, maybe there's a sign of infection in their white cell count, Maybe you're looking for someone who has a chronic disease problem, you might see polycythemia or an elevated red cell.

    02:30 Now look at a chemistry panel - renal function, liver function, electrolytes, cardiac labs, see if maybe their hearts has taken a hit, so we look at CKs or troponin.

    02:41 So those are some of the most common tests.

    02:44 You're gonna work with the healthcare provider.

    02:46 Take your assessment information, what you're seeing in the patient, what you hear about their history and their meds and their current symptoms and decide what are the most appropriate test that will be drawn.

    02:57 In addition to that, they'll look at the chest x-ray.

    03:00 So on the chest x-ray, they can see probable pneumonia or pulmonary edema - very common causes of respiratory problems Also put the patient on a continuous pulse ox and cardiac monitoring.

    03:13 Now continuous pulse ox in a hospital setting is, you just put a plastic clip that has a top and bottom, you squeeze it here, it opens up, put it on the patient's finger with the sensor on the top and there's our sensor on the bottom, it shoots a red light through your patients nail bed and that will let us know what they're hemoglobin saturation is or their pulse ox is.

    03:34 That'll be a number that we're looking at, 100% would be perfect but obviously most people aren't at 100%, even if you're young and healthy, probably around about 99%, that would be really good.

    03:45 But as a patient is in respiratory distress, you'll see that number get lower and lower and lower.

    03:51 We want to keep a sat usually 94% and above, but your healthcare provider may adjust that for specific patients.

    03:58 So I've got them on a pulse ox and a cardiac monitor.

    04:02 That means they have these little foam stickies on and you connect the monitor leads to that and we can see what's going on with the electrical conduction of their heart.

    04:11 Use of the leads that are better just five, that's different than a 12-lead EKG that's done for more specific diagnostics.

    04:19 Okay, so what's the prognosis for somebody who's in respiratory failure? That's a pretty ominous diagnosis, right? But this is what you're going to look at, the end outcome or the prognosis for respiratory failure depends on these things: the severity of the underlying cause - what got us into this trouble, how quickly treatment begins and the patients overall health.

    04:43 Well as a nurse where I can intervene is beginning treatment quickly because I've assessed the patient, I've recognized the signs and I've intervened and advocated for the patient but it depends on how severe the causes of the respiratory problems, how quickly we could start treatment and the patients overall health.

    05:02 We've got something with the minor thing, they're young in their 20's, they're healthy and they're fit, we can just intervene, they've got a much better shot.

    05:09 But if I'm dealing with an 87-year old patient who has multiple comorbidities, right? They have long histories of heart disease, lung disease and a liver disease and kidney disease, and diabetes.

    05:21 They're gonna have a much more difficult prognosis and difficulty coming back from respiratory failure.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Respiratory Failure: Signs and Diagnosis (Nursing) by Rhonda Lawes is from the course Lung Disorders (Nursing).


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Complaints of shortness of breath
    2. Elevated respiratory rate
    3. Restlessness or agitation
    4. Confusion or sleepiness
    5. Sp02 96-98%
    1. ABGs
    2. Chest X-ray
    3. Continuous pulse oximeter
    4. CT scan of the chest
    5. Echocardiogram
    1. The severity of its underlying cause
    2. How quickly treatment begins
    3. The client's overall health
    4. The health care facility
    5. The client's neurohormonal status

    Author of lecture Respiratory Failure: Signs and Diagnosis (Nursing)

     Rhonda Lawes

    Rhonda Lawes


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