Intended for healthcare professionals
Bitesize learning

The ABCDE approach to assessing the deteriorating patient

  • Learning time: 15 mins
  • Last updated: 2020
  • Link to RCNi Revalidation Portfolio

This short learning module highlights the importance of adopting a systematic approach when assessing and caring for a deteriorating patient. The ABCDE approach to assessment of a deteriorating patient helps healthcare practitioners to identify and respond to life-threatening conditions in order of priority and to offer timely interventions.

You may also like to listen to this Nursing Standard podcast,, in which Cardiff University senior lecturer in adult nursing Andy Parry, who has a background in critical care and anaesthetics, talks with RCNi senior nurse editor Richard Hatchett about what the different scales of the early warning scores mean and the importance of a thorough assessment.


Please note that information provided by RCNi Learning is not sufficient to ensure competence in the skill. Assessment of competence should take place in line with local practice. Practice should always align with local protocols and procedures, latest guidelines and any regulatory code. All modules should currently be viewed together with available national and local Covid-19 guidelines. For advice, go to

Duncan Smith, Senior lecturer, Adult nursing, School of Health Sciences, City, University of London, England
Tracey Bowden, Senior lecturer, Adult nursing, School of Health Sciences, City, University of London, England

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