A key class typically taken in the first semester or two of nursing school is physical assessment. In this class, you will learn the proper methods of assessing your patient from head to toe.

Knowing the difference between subjective and objective patient data is vital to performing complete and accurate assessments.

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What Type of Data Is Gathered During Patient Assessments?

Both subjective and objective data are gathered during every patient assessment, including the initial admission assessment.

The charted assessment will include measurable information as well as data that can be seen or heard, which is objective data.

However, it should also include patient-reported, non-measurable information, which is subjective data.

Subjective Versus Objective Data

As a nurse, it can be easy to focus only on one patient data source, such as the black and white information at your fingertips.

However, to create a patient-focused care plan that will best restore your patient to ideal health, you must also take in patient-reported information even if it may not seem applicable at the moment.

What Is Subjective Patient Data?

In nursing (and medical), subjective patient data is anything that cannot be measured or viewed with your five senses. Usually, this data is referred to as patient symptoms.

Subjective data may not initially seem as important as objective data, it can help give you a complete picture of your patient’s status letting you know if treatments are truly effective long-term.

Subjective data is typically more difficult than objective data to understand and assimilate into your nursing care plan because you may not know how important it is to your patient’s overall health status.

Plus, some patients may give out little to no subjective data because they feel very private about their thoughts or because they are physically unable to communicate with you.

Examples of Subjective Patient Data

The most important piece of subjective data to quantify as well as you can is pain. There are many different pain scales used today, but the 1 through 10 measurement scale is most frequently used for adult patients.

You cannot measure your patient’s pain yourself, but you can ask your patients to choose a number for their pain, which will help you see if their pain is increasing or decreasing over time.

Remember that each patient will feel their pain differently.

However, it is not just pain that is subjective. Some other examples of subjective data include the following:

  • Reports of past health issues, such as diarrhea or coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills

What Is Objective Patient Data?

Objective patient data is data that can be measured and easily quantified. As the nurse, you will either be able to gather this information by taking your own measurements or will be able to observe the data directly. This data is typically referred to as signs rather than symptoms.

Often, objective data is seen as the most important source of patient information because it typically shows the root of the problem.

However, it frequently fits together well with subjective data, helping nurses cement their initial thoughts about their patients’ health.

Examples of Objective Patient Data

While specific measurements are often thought of first when it comes to objective patient data, you should know that there is much more to this than initially meets the eye.

In fact, objective signs could also refer to visible patient behaviors and body language that the nurse observes.

Some of the best examples of objective patient data include the following:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Temperature
  • Laboratory values
  • Radiology reports
  • Wound appearance
  • Level of consciousness
  • Weight
  • Overall appearance

Pro Tip:
You should note that although pain is referred to as subjective information, you may be able to make some observations even if your patient cannot rate his pain.

Objective signs that could point to pain include grimacing, frowning, clutching a body part, increased respirations, and grinding the teeth.

The Importance of Knowing the Difference Between Subjective and Objective Data

If you have never known there was a difference between signs and symptoms of illness, you may find all of this information overwhelming at first.

Although your initial attempts at separating subjective data from objective data may be difficult and frustrating, you should quickly gain a better understanding of your patient’s complete health status once you stop overthinking it.

Nursing students preparing to graduate and take the NCLEX examination must know the difference between subjective and objective data. This information will certainly show up on the examination.

However, this information retains its importance even after licensure because nurses must gather both types of data with every physical assessment. After a while, you will find that gathering and categorizing this information becomes second nature just as I did.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re still in nursing school or are already working as a nurse, gathering both subjective as well as objective data is hugely important in creating a nursing care plan for your patient.

Comment below with any tips you have for getting complete information on each of your patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to

  1. Is age subjective or objective data

    Age is considered objective information.

  2. Is blood pressure subjective or objective data

    Blood pressure is able to be quantified and measured by the provider so it’s objective information.

  3. Is Pain objective or subjective data

    Pain is information that expressed by the patient and is not able to be measured by the provider so it’s subjective information.

  4. Is patient history subjective or objective

    Information gathered from the patient such as demographic information, current and past medical information is considered subjective information.

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