ABC`s help .. nursing priorities


I always have problems figuring out priorities and whats most important. Everyone tells me ABC`s.. but what nursing diagnosis fit under these headings? airway, breathing, and circulation.. they all seem to be kind of the same thing.. if you don`t have an airway then you can`t breath, then your circulation is off.. so are there specific nursing diagnosis that can be listed under each category??..

tokyoROSE, BSN, RN

Specializes in Operating Room. Has 2 years experience. 1 Article; 526 Posts

Seems like you need to see examples of priorities to 'get it'. Example, you are going to help someone who is choking (airway) before helping someone who is bleeding out (circulation). No, they are not always related.

CT Pixie, BSN, RN

Has 10 years experience. 3,723 Posts

If a patient has a productive cough with thick secretions (airway), they are sneezing and congested (breathing) and has a nasty cut that will require sutures and it is bleeding pretty good (circulation) go for the circulation part of the problem. They have a far better chance of death from bleeding out from a injury than they do from a productive cough and being congested at that point in time. Now, lets say, the person has a non-productive cough and they are unable to bring up those thick secretions, they are having a hard time catching their breath and they have a cut to their thumb..then the thick secretions need to be dealt with first..since the secretions are most likely causing the shortness of breath..the cut to their thumb won't kill them..not breathing will.

If you have to pick between a person who's choking (but not coughing, d/t no air going in) or a person who's bleeding you'd go for the compromised airway, IF the person choking is coughing then you'd go for the bleeder first.



26 Posts

Airway -- think of the actual airway like a tube - what could cause it to be blocked? Trauma, mucus, etc. One nursing dx is ineffective airway clearance.

Breathing -- anything having to do with the act of breathing -- respiration rate and depth (ineffective breathing pattern) or gas exchange in the lungs (ineffective gas exchange).

Circulation -- anything to do with the vascular system. Think bleeding, cardiac output, dehydration, overhydration, etc. Decreased cardiac output, fluid volume deficit/excess, risk for bleeding.

Then you go with Maslow's hierarcy for your prioritization. Pain before coping, food before love, etc.

Also another to think of is anytime that fixing one nursing dx can fix multiple other dx.