What Does Pathophysiology Mean in Nursing?

sign that says pathophysiology

Understanding pathophysiology is essential for the nursing profession.

It may not be obvious, but pathophysiology dictates many aspects of nursing practice and respond in a given situation. Here’s what pathophysiology means in nursing.

Pathophysiology is the discipline that studies how an injury, condition, or disease affects someone. Nurses use the understanding of pathophysiology to understand those effects and, in turn, respond with the most appropriate treatment.

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What is Pathophysiology?

Pathophysiolgy combines pathology and physiology to create the study of abnormalities (both physical and biological) that happen in the body because of a condition or disease process.

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Why is Pathophysiology Important in Nursing?

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Pathophysiology is important in nursing because it helps outline what a nurses’ primary duties should be for a given disease or disorder.

For Example
If a patient has heart failure, the nurse knows what heart failure does to the human body (i.e., the pathophysiology of heart failure).

The nurse would be able to act appropriately to prevent significant complications or worse death.

How Do Nurses Learn Pathophysiology?

Nurses learn pathophysiology as a part of their coursework. Before applying to any nursing school, you have to take Human Anatomy and a Human Physiology course as a prerequisite.

In that class, students are exposed to the human anatomy and how diseases and disorders affect it.

Once a student is accepted into a nursing program, they will be exposed to more pathophysiology studies and how it affects nursing practice.

You’ll get more exposure to this in a nursing program for a registered nurse (RN) as opposed to a nursing program for licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN).

Nursing Pathophysiology Examples

icu nurse taking care of patient

Here are some examples of pathophysiology:

  • The pathophysiology of heart failure: the heart muscles are no longer efficient because of damage or other reasons. So if this patient is getting anything through the IV, nurses need to be very careful not to give them too much fluids.
  • The pathophysiology of Bell’s palsy: Bell’s palsy is a sudden weakness in facial muscles. This might mean that a patient with Bell’s palsy can’t drink through a straw. So the nurse would have to keep that in mind.

Nurses who understand the pathophysiology of a disease and recognize its signs and symptoms are able to make better clinical judgments.

This will allow the nurse to set more correct nursing priorities and provide better patient care.

Pathophysiology and how it translates to patient care is one of the reasons why nursing schools put such an emphasis on nursing students developing better critical thinking skills.

Because when it comes to pathophysiology in nursing (at least how it relates to nursing care), it requires a lot of critical thinking because most of it is not entirely black and white.

Are Nurses The Only Healthcare Professional That Uses Pathophysiology

Other healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants use pathophysiology to understand how diseases affect the human body.

Key Takeaway

Given all the information above, you can see just how vital pathophysiology is to health care professionals, especially nursing.

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