Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

JBI Evid Synth





First Page



Curriculum, Delivery of Health Care, Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate, Humans, Physical Examination, Students, Nursing, United States

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OBJECTIVE: This scoping review sought to establish the current state of knowledge regarding physical assessment skills taught globally in undergraduate nursing curricula. Explicitly, the review aimed to determine which skills are being taught via curricula and which skills are performed by students in clinical placements, as well as what physical assessment skills are being used by registered nurses in practice.

INTRODUCTION: Nursing programs are expected to teach the physical assessment skills required for entry-level registered nurses to practice competently. The discrepancy lies in determining which skills are essential to teach entry-level nurses and which are unessential.

INCLUSION CRITERIA: Studies that examined physical assessment skills taught to students in any undergraduate registered nursing program or used by registered nurses in practice were considered. Physical assessments included all techniques or skills taught in any year of a university or college teaching global registered nursing curricula.

METHODS: Databases searched included MEDLINE (Ovid), CINAHL Complete (EBSCO), Scopus, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Ovid). Sources of unpublished studies included ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, OpenGrey, Open Access Theses and Dissertations, and Google Scholar. Studies published in English between January 2008 and November 2019 were included. Two independent reviewers screened titles and abstracts. Studies meeting the inclusion criteria were imported into the Covidence systematic review manager. Extracted data were presented in a descriptive format, including characteristics of included studies and relevant key findings.

RESULTS: Thirteen records were extracted for synthesis: one integrated review, one author reflection, one mixed methods study, and 10 quantitative studies. The sources represented a global context: the United States, New Zealand, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Korea, Italy, and one of unknown origin. Three studies examined physical assessment skills routinely taught in global nursing curricula. Three studies explored physical assessment skills routinely used by students during nursing programs. Seven studies examined which physical assessment skills were routinely performed by registered nurses in practice. In the studies, there were 98 to 122 physical assessment skills taught in global nursing programs. However, only 33 skills were routinely taught in curricula, and of those, only 20 were the same across all studies (core skills). Students in nursing programs routinely performed 30 physical assessment skills, and six of the 30 skills were the same across all studies (core skills). Of the six core skills routinely performed by students, five were also routinely taught in nursing curricula in the included studies. Registered nurses routinely performed 39 physical assessment skills, and 11 skills were the same across all studies (core skills). Ten of the physical assessment skills taught in curricula were routinely performed by registered nurses in practice.

CONCLUSION: This scoping review provides insight into physical assessment skills taught in nursing curricula and used by registered nurses in practice. This knowledge is essential for curriculum revisions and planning as it provides insight on how to best meet the needs of future nursing students.

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Nursing Commons