University of Technology Sydney

96318 Comprehensive Physical Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2022 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject is designed to build on students' existing physical assessment skills, with the aim of developing their diagnostic reasoning skills and progressing their advanced nursing practice. The focus is on developing assessment skills, required to critically analyse patient health data, in order to diagnose and identify priorities of treatment and develop appropriate management plans. Students will have the opportunity to practice health assessments, develop diagnoses, prioritise care, and solve complex problems. Opportunities to promote development will incorporate simulation, virtual reality and individual clinical settings. With a strong focus on critical thinking, communication and professionalism, this subject provides students with a foundation to move into highly skilled and advanced nursing practice.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Synthesise and interpret patient health data including patient history, physical assessment and diagnostic data.
B. Articulate and justify differential diagnoses based on comprehensive physical assessments and advanced diagnostic reasoning. Correlate normal and abnormal physiological and psychological knowledge with assessment findings.
C. Formulate and communicate an effective management plan in partnership with the patient, family/significant others and interdisciplinary team.
D. Identify and prioritise the focus of assessment and management to prevent life threatening situations.
E. Critically appraise patient circumstances in relation to social and cultural histories and promote a person- centred approach to assessment and management.
F. Consider unique priorities of assessment, diagnosis and management in Indigenous Australians.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Are reflective critical thinkers who examine and contribute to practice, policy and research to achieve clinical excellence and enhance health outcomes (1.0)
  • Are visionary, innovative and responsive leaders (2.0)
  • Are socially, culturally and ethically aware and accountable when engaging with health care consumers, families/significant others, interdisciplinary teams, communities, organisations and authorities (3.0)
  • Communicate effectively and professionally in diverse and dynamic situations (4.0)
  • Embody the professional qualities appropriate to the scope of their role (5.0)
  • Demonstrate professional cultural capability which contributes to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians (6.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

In this subject, you will participate in a range of teaching and learning strategies that are designed to encourage you to engage in developing their diagnostic reasoning skills and progressing of your advanced nursing practice.

Orientation activities
Preparation for the Session - students are expected to undertake activities prior to the first week. These activities include online readings, videos, interaction with peers, and are important in helping students prepare for the subject's Assessment Tasks. This also provides students with an opportunity to meet and interact with peers. Students will learn through independent learning activities, group work, peer review, and participation in the Zoom meetings.

Independent learning activities
Relevant readings, videos and activities will be made available online relevant to the topic of the week. Students are expected to come to Zoom meetings prepared. This will enhance the students’ ability to progress successfully throughout the subject and complete assessment items effectively. The online material aims to enhance students’ understanding of the topic or delve deeper into a more specific area, compare experiences and ideas with others, and gain feedback. Information and links to all these learning activities can be accessed via Canvas as well as the subject outline.

Zoom meetings
Zoom meetings will provide opportunities for group activities and discussion, self-assessment, peer review and formative feedback from the subject coordinator. Zoom meetings will be conducted at a time that enables the majority of students to contribute. Students are strongly encouraged to attend the Zoom meetings as these prepare students for the subject’s Assessment Tasks.

Feedback will be frequent and takes several forms including self-assessment, peer review, automatic feedback from interactive activities e.g. quizzes, and from the subject coordinator. Formative feedback throughout the subject aims to increase student performance at summative assessments.

Content (topics)

This subject will cover the following topics:

History Taking and Communication

  • Health Interview and History taking
  • Psychological and social considerations
  • Cultural considerations
  • Rapid A-G Assessment

Physical Assessment, Investigations and Diagnosis

  • Neurological
  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Abdominal

Communication, Consultancy and Referral

  • Synthesising health assessment data
  • Communicating findings
  • Consultancy, referral and transfer
  • Patient Education and communication


Assessment task 1: Health interview report and reflection


This assessment task aims to help you develop your knowledge and skills in systematic and structured health interviewing and comprehensive history taking. This will include you demonstrating a consciousness of psychological, social, cultural and spiritual considerations. In addition, the task will assist you in early identification of potential ‘Red Flags’ and management priorities based upon these.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, D, E and F

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%

Health interview report (presented as clinical notes) and a reflection 800 words +/-10%


Marking criteria is available in Canvas

Assessment task 2: Complex Case Study Report


This assessment task aims to develop your ability to perform a comprehensive physical and/or psychological assessment and articulate advanced diagnostic and clinical reasoning skills to formulate differential diagnoses, and a management plan in consultation with the patient, their family/significant others, and the interdisciplinary team.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C, D, E and F

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 40%

2500 words +/- 10%


Marking criteria is available in Canvas
NB: You are to bring an outline of your complex patient to Zoom meeting 2 to receive formative feedback from your peers and tutor prior to the due date of this assessment.

Assessment task 3: Structured Clinical Examination


The intent of this assessment is for you to draw on the acquired knowledge, skills and clinical reasoning developed during this subject. You will be assessed through a virtual clinical scenario where you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge relating to; comprehensive physical assessment, synthesis and interpretation of assessment data, clinical decision making, reasoning and judgement, and person centred communication.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C, D, E and F

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Type: Examination
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 40%

Length: Five stations, requiring variations of short answer responses, drag and drop activities and two recorded communication videos.


Marking criteria is available in Canvas

Required texts

Cox., C. (2019). Physical Assessment for Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (3rd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. Talley, N. and O'Connor, S. (2017) Clinical examination: 2 volume set. (8th ed.). Elsevier.

Students are advised to acquire their own copies of this text which is available to purchase in electronic format and/or hardcopy. An e-copy may be available from the UTS library as well as access via open and closed reserve.

All additional readings, other than text books, will be available via links from within Canvas.

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and UTSOnline at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.