ABCDE Assessment (Primary Survey)

1h 40m
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The Ausmed Education Learning Centre is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation

Provider Number PO342.

CPD1h 40m of CPD
First Published
Updated20 December 2023
Expires 30 December 2024
Recorded InMelbourne, Australia

Course Overview

The ABCDE assessment approach is a vital tool for healthcare professionals dealing with deteriorating or critically ill patients. This systematic, rapid bedside assessment focuses on prioritised initial management of life-threatening conditions and improving the patient’s condition without an immediate need for a definitive diagnosis.

This Ausmed Course provides healthcare professionals with a step-by-step guide to applying the ABCDE assessment in their clinical practice, covering each assessment area (airway, breathing, circulation, disability and exposure) in detail, from identification to interventions.

  • Components and indications for conducting an ABCDE assessment (primary survey)
  • Assessing airway, breathing, circulation, disability (cognitive functioning) and exposure status of a patient
  • Identifying indicators of potential medical causes and signs of deterioration
  • Management strategies and interventions for common issues
  • Urgent and advanced interventions

The ABCDE systematic assessment approach is used by healthcare professionals to assess and manage critically ill patients. This approach facilitates early recognition and response to clinical deterioration of a patient, which is fundamental to achieving positive patient outcomes, as delayed identification and management of deterioration can lead to potentially fatal outcomes.

It is essential that healthcare professionals regularly encountering critically ill patients in their practice have the knowledge and confidence to recognise and respond to signs of clinical deterioration and provide patients with safe, effective and timely care when they need it the most.


To provide a refreshed, enhanced and in-depth understanding of the ABCDE assessment approach to conducting a primary survey in line with National Safety and Quality Health Service Standard 8, ‘Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration’, in order to efficiently and safely recognise changes and respond to the deteriorating patient, improve practice and reduce adverse or sentinel events.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of how to perform an ABCDE systematic assessment on critically ill patients in a timely and efficient manner.
  2. Identify and differentiate between normal and abnormal findings during an ABCDE assessment and initiate appropriate interventions based on the patient's condition.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of interventions initiated during the ABCDE assessment and modify the plan of care as needed based on the patient's response.
  4. Collaborate and communicate effectively with interdisciplinary team members regarding the patient's assessment findings to develop an individualised care plan.
Target Audience

This Ausmed Course is intended for paramedics, nurses and other healthcare professionals looking to increase their understanding of best practices for conducting a primary survey following the ABCDE systematic approach in the clinically deteriorating patient.


No conflict of interest exists for anyone in the position to control content for this activity. Wherever possible, generic or non-proprietary names of medications or products have been used.


Presented by
educator profile image
Jeff Kenneally View profile
Jeff Kenneally has a lifelong commitment to pre-hospital care, having served as an operational paramedic for 34 years, mostly in intensive care roles. He has managed frontline paramedic teams, commanded major events, mentored, educated and worked in communications dispatch centres and at the ambulance air wing. His roles have taken him to rural and metropolitan areas. For four years, Jeff managed the Ambulance Victoria clinical practice guidelines. In recent years, Jeff has turned to university lecturing for paramedic students, including leading international study tours. He is a published author in pre-hospital practice and contributor to numerous major textbooks. In 2018, Jeff was awarded the Ambulance Service Medal in recognition of his contribution.
CPD time1h 40m
First Published
Updated20 December 2023
30 December 2024
Recorded InMelbourne, Australia
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