Nurses perform a neurological assessment by evaluating the level of consciousness of the patient, searching for any signs of motor or cerebral dysfunction, and assessing vital signs, reflexes and sensation, according to the Modern Medicine Network. Nurses often conduct bedside neurological assessments when they change shifts with other nurses, which allows two people to identify any possible signs of neurological symptoms.
The most important part of the neurological assessment is the levels of consciousness part of the examination, states the Modern Medicine Network. Stages range from full consciousness to lethargy to obtundation to stupor to coma, but recording specific answers to questions and vital signs that demonstrate the patient's level of consciousness is more important than using the correct terminology. Nurses ask questions to determine if patients understand who they are, know where they are and can correctly determine the time period. Nurses assessing patients with strokes may use the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale or may use the Glasgow Coma Scale to assess patients with head injuries.
Nurses determine motor function in awake patients by asking them to raise and flex their arms and legs and rating the resulting movements on a five to zero scale, explains the Modern Medicine Network. Nurses may also ask patients to stand up to check their balance. They also test patients' ability to feel sensation by pressing a safety pin against the skin and their ability to feel temperature using ice water.