What Is Subjective Data?

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Subjective data, or subjective assessment data, is a common term in nursing; it refers to information collected via communicating with the patient. Such data, which is essentially the patient’s own reason for seeking medical attention, allows doctors and nurses to gain an insight into the patient’s physical condition and needs.

Questions asked to collect subjective data may include the following:

  • “When were you last sick?”
  • “What were your symptoms?”
  • “Where was the pain located?”

Often, patients will also offer their own diagnoses based on personal Internet research.

Subjective data differs from objective data. Objective data is obtained directly from the observations and other diagnostic methodologies of the medical professional. Objective data and subjective data may also be referred to as “signs” and “symptoms” respectively.

There will often be a partial overlap between the two. For instance, a nurse might observe a patient shivering, coughing or scratching while the patient is reporting the symptoms to the nurse.

Conversely, there will also be times when the objective data contradicts the subjective data, or at least cannot confirm it. For example, a patient may say that he feels calm despite a high blood pressure reading. This is often referred to as “white coat syndrome,” whereby a patient feels nervous because of the presence of a medical professional.