Objective and subjective data

When treating patients, medical professionals must pay due attention to both objective and subjective data to make the right decision as efficiently as possible. Of course, doctors only need to look at lab and analytical results to easily determine a patient’s present state of health. However, they are missing an important element – the patient’s well-being as well as other secondary signs and problems. In this article, you can recognize the difference between objective and subjective data.

What is objective data

Objective data is data that we can watch with our senses. We obtain this data from observations or direct monitoring of patients. In addition, this kind of evidence can be challenged because its examination includes vital signs, tests, and bodily assessments. Nonetheless, objective data is easiest to recognize because there is no so-called “gray area,” making it easier for nurses and physicians to understand the condition.

Samples of objective data include:

  • heart rate
  • blood pressure
  • body temperature
  • height and weight
  • general appearance
  • level of consciousness

Most medical professionals prefer to base their conclusions on objective data because it is obtained quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have the patience to just sit down and listen to the person.

What is subjective data

There is an unwritten medical rule that says that symptoms are always subjective and signs are objective. Subjective data are all the information a patient can tell about himself: how he feels, what he feels, what problems he experiences. Sometimes they are underestimated and seem less important than objective data, but it is worth remembering that being mindful of all individual feelings of the patient can help you present their medical history and individual case as clearly as possible.

Among the most critical components of this kind of data is pain. If a patient has pain, that means it needs to be treated, even without assessing its magnitude.

Examples of subjective data include:

  • Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Cough
  • Vomiting

Examples of objective and subjective data occurring simultaneously

To better grasp the distinction between objective and subjective types of data, you need to see a case in which they are presented at the same time. Each of the parameters described below will contain subjective data from the patient telling the nurse about their symptoms, while at the same time the nurse is tracking objective data that could explain the nature of those symptoms.

So, situation #1:

  • A patient has a fever, and the nurse attributes it to the high temperature shown on the patient’s thermometer

Situation #2.

  • A patient is complaining of nausea, and the nurse sees the patient vomiting into a trash can.

Situation #3.

  • Patient is complaining of trembling, the nurse sees his hands shaking

All of these cases suggest that medical professionals are primarily interested in objective data that is intimately connected to the patient’s symptoms.