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Nursing Information: Common Lab Values

Higher Education Articles May 2, 2013

A nurse’s job not only consists of performing routine operations, but also working with complex terminology along with lab values. This will be required to help document changes in patients, as well as symptoms of concern. Nurses are expected to memorize these lab values for the most efficient performance. The sooner you can memorize these symbols and recite them quickly, the better.

Lab values stand for results coming from various lab tests, including blood tests, urine tests, stool samples, or other types of tests that might be ordered. The lab sends back a report with specific measurements for a doctor’s review. The tests report on the condition of bodily function, indicating the health of organs. Here are some of the most common symbols for your review.

Red Blood Cells: The normal level or value here is about 4.2-6.2 million/mm3. This refers to cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. The number lets a doctor know if the patient is getting the necessary amount of oxygen, thanks to adequate hemoglobin.

Leukocytes: Leukocytes should have a value of 5000-10,000/mm3. These white blood cells can help in diagnosing infection since it helps doctors know the white blood cell count.

Hematocrit: Hematocrit’s value, when normal, is around 38%-54%. This lets doctors know the volume of red blood cells. Knowing this can help doctors stay aware of conditions like COPD, bone marrow problems, dehydration and other conditions.

Hemoglobin: The value should be 12-18 g/dL. This test is performed on patients who have or may have diabetes. The values help doctors determine the best course of action.

Platelets: Platelets value should be about 150,000-450,000/mm3. These help blood clots. The report will let a doctor know the number of platelets present in a patient’s body. This will help in determining possible problems.

Uric Acid: Uric Acid’s value should be 2.7-8.5 mg/dL. This determines the level of uric acid and whether there are any abnormalities present. This test is often ordered when dealing with radiation treatment or even gout.

Prothrombin Time: The value should be 9.5-11.8 sec. This report helps doctors determine how effective blood thinning agents are in a particular case. This will influence a doctor’s decision on whether to change the dosage.

Partial Thromboplastin Time: The value should be 30-45 sec. The report alerts a doctor on how long it would take for a patient’s blood to clot. It is useful when treating bleeding problems.

Sedimentation Rate: The value should be C20-C30 mm/hr. This reading will indicate problems with inflammation.

Potassium: The values are typically 3.5-5.0 MEq/L. Potassium readings measure electrolyte and mineral in a person’s blood. When readings are not typical, this could indicate significant problems with a person’s kidneys or nerves.

BUN: This test reports on blood urea nitrogen, which is related to the kidneys. The value should be at around 6-20 mg/dL.

Creatinine: Creatinine’s normal value should be at 0.5-1.3 mg/dL. This test is related to kidney health, as your kidneys are what remove creatinine in the first place. When the values are too high, there is a problem.

All of these tests are vital to understanding a patient’s health. A doctor and a nurse will work together to determine why test results are not within normal range. For example, whether there is a medication interaction, or stress is a factor, or dieting is to blame. This is why it is vital for nurses to report accurate information.

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