Critical Thinking in Cardiac Assessment

Cardiac disease is so prevalent in our times that a nurse, in almost every care setting, will encounter patients with some degree of its manifestation. Coexistent types of cardiac pathophysiology and varied severity in symptomatology can make assessment difficult for the nurse. However, the ability to recognize symptoms, assess their severity, and determine when the patient status is changing is essential to prevent poor outcomes and frequent hospital readmissions. They are also instrumental in promoting and maintaining quality of life. These actions are the responsibility of the nurse and expected within the scope of practice.

Honing assessment skills aids in recognition of both subtle and overt symptoms and behaviors which may indicate patient compromise. Although this is primarily a continuing education course for nurses caring for patients with cardiac disease in the non-acute setting, it will also be beneficial to any nurse needing to strengthen skills and knowledge in this area of practice. The course begins with a review of cardiac anatomy, assessments, disorders, and chronic symptomatology which are then linked with assessments focused on changes in status requiring intervention. Many tools will be utilized to maximize the learning and comprehension of cardiac assessment for nurses.

A Link-it Course©  
A Link-it course is a critical thinking course. The most meaningful learning occurs when connections are made using analytical thought processes.  The Link-it symbol will link associations between theory and nursing action rationales. ©PatSchmehl 2013 

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Upon completion of this course, the participant will be able to:

  1. Define commonly used anatomical terms and landmarks related to the cardiac system.
  2. Discuss the cardiac blood flow pathway as it relates to oxygenation and perfusion. 
  3. Identify the four cardiac components and examples of disease or dysfunction affecting each one. 
  4. Explain the types of assessment methods used in cardiac disease states. 
  5. Discuss and recognize the importance of assessing laboratory and diagnostic test results as part of the cardiac assessment. 
  6. Identify methods of accurate reporting of cardiac disease related symptomatology. 
  7. Create critical thinking templates for knowledge application in caring for a patient with cardiac disease/dysfunction.


Chapter 1: Basic Review of Cardiac Anatomy 

  • Anatomical structures and terminology 
  • Landmarks 
  • Components of the heart involved in assessment
Chapter 2: Cardiac Blood Flow 
  • Oxygenation
  • Perfusion 
  • Heart structures and blood flow
  • The cardiac cycle
Chapter 3: The Origins of Cardiac Disease 
  • Assessment findings related to cardiac vascular disease and dysfunction
  • Assessment findings related to cardiac valvular disease and dysfunction
  • Assessment findings related to cardiac muscle disease and dysfunction
  • Assessment findings related to cardiac electrical system disease and dysfunction
Chapter 4: Applying Assessment Methods to the Cardiac System 
  • Comparing local and systemic components of the cardiac focused assessment
  • Assessment methods used in disease and dysfunction by cardiac component 
  • Collecting subjective and objective information
  • Understanding and interpreting patient reporting of subjective information
Chapter 5: Laboratory and Diagnostic Testing Related to Cardiac Disease 
  • Laboratory testing specific to each cardiac component disease/dysfunction 
  • Diagnostic testing specific to each cardiac component disease/dysfunction
Chapter 6: Nursing Actions and Symptom Reporting
  • Nursing action goals
  • Use of the nursing process to define and achieve goals
  • Methods for detailed reporting in collaborative care
    • Assessing complaints and findings using OPQRST
    • SBAR communication
    • Employing INTERACT tools
Chapter 7: Concept Mapping Templates for Cardiac Disease Related Nursing Actions

Chapter 8: References
  • California Bill 241
  • Implicit Bias in Healthcare
  • What is Implicit Bias?
  • Implications of Implicit Bias in Healthcare
  • How to Reduce Implicit Bias

Price: $35.00

Contact Hours: 3.5

Course Author

Patricia Schmehl

Pat originally graduated from a diploma program and later went on to earn her BSN and MSN and now her DNP while continuing to practice critical care nursing. Currently she is a faculty member in the ADN program at Reading Area Community College in reading Pennsylvania. She is the author of a newly published book (Jones and Bartlett): Introduction to Concept Mapping: Critical Thinking in Action.

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