Health Promotion and Maintenance on the NCLEX-RN

When looking at the scope of knowledge that you need to know as you prepare to take the NCLEX-RN, it is easy to become discouraged and think there is no way to break the test down and study what you need to know.  But, that’s simply not true.  Luckily, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) publishes a test plan that is free and available to all test-takers.  In this blog, we will take a closer look at one area of that test plan. One of the 4 major test categories is Health Promotion and Maintenance.

What does Health Promotion and Maintenance Mean?

Let’s start at the beginning.  What does Health Promotion and Maintenance mean from a nursing perspective? Nurses are engaged with clients in all aspects of development.  From in utero development through the process of death and dying, nurses are there.  One way of thinking of health promotion and maintenance is to think about these stages of development and consider the role of the nurse in identifying norms in development, promotion of healthy behaviors, and early disease detection and intervention.  This is indeed a big umbrella of information but we can take apart nursing knowledge to put it into this context.

Human Development

One topic you can focus your studies on is the normal patterns of human development. From newborns to the elderly, it is essential that nurses be aware of the common changes to the body as the aging process occurs so that disease processes can be detected early and interventions started, if needed.  It is important for nurses to be able to distinguish normal development from something that could indicate a health problem for their patient. Nurses must also be aware of the social, emotional, and cognitive development of people across the lifespan.  They need be able to tailor their assessments and communications to the appropriate stage of development. It is not appropriate for a nurse to treat a two-year old the same way they treat a full grown man. Nurses should be able to adapt the care they give to the correct developmental level of their clients. The NCLEX test will pose questions that evaluate the candidate’s ability to differentiate assessments across all developmental levels.

Nursing physical assessment of newborn

Photo by Topato

Physical Assessment

A related topic for review in health promotion and maintenance is physical assessment.  Nurses must have a solid understanding on how to assess the physical systems of the body and distinguish between normal and abnormal findings. As humans grow and develop findings from physical assessment can change. Candidates for the NCLEX-RN test must be able to recall the process of head to toe physical assessment and then translate those findings into nursing interventions. The NCLEX-RN exam will challenge potential nurses to choose appropriate physical assessment techniques and identify the significance of certain physical assessment findings.  There are many “cheat sheets” out there to help guide nurses through physical assessments.  Complete assessments will encompass inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation depending on the focus of the assessment. NCLEX-RN candidates should have a thorough knowledge of normal assessment findings and which findings would require the need for intervention or further investigation.

Self-care and Optimal States of Health

nursing physical assessment of adult
Nurses must also be able to promote self-care and practices that encourage optimal states of health.  Nurses need a foundation of knowledge on healthy behaviors across the age spectrum and be able to effectively communicate those to patients and their families. This includes identifying high risk behaviors, important actions related to chronic health conditions, lifestyle factors that affect health, and appropriate health screenings for clients at all stages of life. The NCLEX will ask candidates to analyze the age and habits of patients and make recommendations to promote the best outcomes.  This will require that test-takers be familiar with current guidelines related to healthy lifestyles such as diet and exercise as well as current practice in regards to early detection screenings like pap smears and colonoscopies. Nurses must be able to synthesize all of this information to choose suitable plans of care for the patients they care for. One important thing to keep in mind here as well, is that nurses are aiming for optimal health for all their patients and are looking for the best outcomes.  Therefore, nurses are challenged address health promotion in those that are already suffering from some sort of health problem.  This means recognizing that the goals for a healthy, young adult are not the same as a young adult just diagnosed with a chronic illness like diabetes.  Nurses have a duty promote health at all levels taking into account the needs and goals of the patient.
To sum it up, the category of health promotion and maintenance on the NCLEX-RN test is aimed at the potential nurse’s knowledge of all the aspects of human development and what assessment findings are expected across the lifespan.  It also requires that the test candidates blend this knowledge with their knowledge of overall health promotion activities such as early screening and healthy lifestyle recommendation across various levels of health. Health promotion and maintenance is a large category encompassing a lot of information however, it can be broken down into smaller, reviewable pieces as prepare for your NCLEX-RN. Happy studying!