Focused vs. Complete Assessment

Focused vs. Complete Assessment

Assessment is the initial step in the nursing process, and it entails the collection of information that will form an individualized database about the patient. According to Weber and Kelley (2013), the collection of information from the patient is done in a systematic manner using a variety of techniques and then organized according to a predetermined nursing structure for interpretation. The assessment process is carried out when a patient enters the hospital or a healthcare facility. There are two methods commonly used in the assessment process namely complete assessment and focused nursing assessment. The difference between the two types is viewed regarding information gathered and the time the operation is carried out.

A comprehensive health assessment is carried out immediately a client enters a facility with the aim of identifying the altered health status, uncertain health outcomes and to provide a comprehensive database critical for evaluation of the health status of the patient in subsequent assessments (Portal, 2017). During the assessment, objective and subjective data is collected and documented systematically for later review. According to the nursing standards of practice, a complete health assessment should be completed within 24 hours of patient admission (Portal, 2017). The components of a complete health assessment include a general survey, complete health history, vital signs and review of body systems.

A focused health assessment is a modified type of examination that uses knowledge of the patient’s history and the chief complaint to examine a specific part or body system of interest (Weber and Kelley, 2013). The assessment deals with a problem that is already identified and it takes a shorter time frame than a complete assessment. The nurse usually determines if the issue of concern has improved, resolved or worsened. Focused assessment may also be done on specific body systems relating to the chief complain such as the neurological system.


Weber, J. R., & Kelley, J. H. (2013). Health assessment in nursing. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Portal, M. R.  (2017). Nursing assessment. Clinical Guidelines in Nursing; My RCH Portal.