Week 1: Building a Comprehensive Health History

Published by Brenda I. Belcher

Mar 27, 2021

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According to a 2011 Gallup poll, nurses are ranked as the most trusted professionals in the United States. One of the most admired nursing skills is the ability to put patients at ease. When patients enter into a healthcare setting, they are often apprehensive about sharing personal health information. Caring nurses can alleviate the hesitance of patients and encourage them to be forthcoming with this information.  

The initial health history interview can be an excellent opportunity to develop supportive relationships between patients and nurses. Nurses may employ a variety of communication skills and interview techniques to foster strong bonds with patients and to effectively facilitate the diagnostic process. In conducting interviews, advanced practice nurses must also take into account a range of patient-specific factors that may impact the questions they ask, how they ask those questions, and their complete assessment of the patient’s health.  

This week, you will consider how social determinants of health such as age, gender, ethnicity, and environmental situation impact the health and risk assessment of the patients you serve. You will also consider how social determinants of health influence your interview and communication techniques as you work in partnership with a patient to gather data to build an accurate health history.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Analyze communication techniques used to obtain patients’ health histories based upon social determinants of health
  • Analyze health-related risk
  • Apply concepts, theories, and principles related to patient interviewing, diagnostic reasoning, and recording patient information

Learning Resources

Required Readings (click to expand/reduce)

Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2019). Seidel’s guide to physical examination: An interprofessional approach (9th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

  • Chapter 1, “The History and Interviewing Process”

This chapter explains the process of developing relationships with patients in order to build an effective health history. The authors offer suggestions for adapting the creation of a health history according to age, gender, and disability.

  • Chapter 5, “Recording Information”

This chapter provides rationale and methods for maintaining clear and accurate records. The authors also explore the legal aspects of patient records.

Sullivan, D. D. (2019). Guide to clinical documentation (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

  • Chapter 2, “The Comprehensive History and Physical Exam” (pp. 19–29)

Deckx, L., van den Akker, M., Daniels, L., De Jonge, E. T., Bulens, P., Tjan-Heijnen, V. C. G., … Buntinx, F. (2015). Geriatric screening tools are of limited value to predict decline in functional status and quality of life: Results of a cohort study. BMC Family Practice, 16, 1–12.  https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1186/s12875-015-0241- x  Wu, R. R., & Orlando, L. A. (2015). Implementation of health risk assessments with family health history: Barriers and benefits. Postgraduate Medical Journal, (1079), 508–513.  Lushniak, B. D. (2015). Surgeon general’s perspectives: Family health history: Using the past to improve future health. Public Health Reports, (1), 3.  Jardim, T. V., Sousa, A. L. L., Povoa, T. I. R., Barroso, W. K. S., Chinem, B., Jardim, L., … Jardim, P. C. B. V. (2015). The natural history of cardiovascular risk factors in health professionals: 20-year follow-up. BMC Public Health, 15(1111), 1–7. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1186/s12889-015-2477-8 

Shadow Health Support and Orientation Resources

Use the following resources to guide you through your Shadow Health orientation as well as other support resources: Frey, C. [Chris Frey]. (2015, September 4). Student orientation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_8pTJBkY Shadow Health. (n.d.). Shadow Health help desk. Retrieved from https://support.shadowhealth.com/hc/en-us Document: Shadow Health. (2014). Useful tips and tricks (Version 2) (PDF) Document: Shadow Health Nursing Documentation Tutorial (Word document)

Optional Resource

LeBlond, R. F., Brown, D. D., & DeGowin, R. L. (2014). DeGowin’s diagnostic examination (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw- Hill Medical.

  • Chapter 2, “History Taking and the Medical Record” (pp. 15–33)

Required Media (click to expand/reduce)


Discussion: Building a Health History

To prepare:

With the information presented in Chapter 1 of Ball et al. in mind, consider the following:

  • By Day 1 of this week, you will be assigned a new patient profile by your Instructor for this Discussion. Note: Please see the “Course Announcements” section of the classroom for your new patient profile assignment.
  • How would your communication and interview techniques for building a health history differ with each patient?
  • How might you target your questions for building a health history based on the patient’s social determinants of health?
  • What risk assessment instruments would be appropriate to use with each patient, or what questions would you ask each patient to assess his or her health risks?
  • Identify any potential health-related risks based upon the patient’s age, gender, ethnicity, or environmental setting that should be taken into consideration.
  • Select one of the risk assessment instruments presented in Chapter 1 or Chapter 5 of the Seidel’s Guide to Physical Examination text, or another tool with which you are familiar, related to your selected patient.
  • Develop at least five targeted questions you would ask your selected patient to assess his or her health risks and begin building a health history.
By Day 3 of Week 1

Post a summary of the interview and a description of the communication techniques you would use with your assigned patient. Explain why you would use these techniques. Identify the risk assessment instrument you selected, and justify why it would be applicable to the selected patient. Provide at least five targeted questions you would ask the patient.

Note: For this Discussion, you are required to complete your initial post before you will be able to view and respond to your colleagues’ postings. Begin by clicking on the “Post to Discussion Question” link, and then select “Create Thread” to complete your initial post. Remember, once you click on Submit, you cannot delete or edit your own posts, and you cannot post anonymously. Please check your post carefully before clicking on Submit!

Read a selection of your colleagues’ responses.

By Day 6 of Week 1

Respond to at least two of your colleagues on 2 different days who selected a different patient than you, using one or more of the following approaches:

  • Share additional interview and communication techniques that could be effective with your colleague’s selected patient.
  • Suggest additional health-related risks that might be considered.
  • Validate an idea with your own experience and additional research.

Submission and Grading Information

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