Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklist For Care Providers

Last Updated: August 7, 2023
A doctor  measuring a patient

Improving patient care and communication among healthcare professionals is one key way to encourage patient trust and reduce medical errors.

One of the simplest solutions to improve both care and communication across healthcare organizations is the use of assessment checklists, including head-to-toe assessment checklists.

We’ll share a head-to-toe assessment template, explain how to create your own checklist and the benefits it can have on your work. Plus, how going digital can streamline the process and improve your efficiency.

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What Is a Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklist?

A head-to-toe assessment checklist, or form, is a document that processes and reviews the patient’s physical state and functions.

Head-to-toe checklists are used by nurses, EMTs, doctors and physician assistants to perform and document a complete check of a patient’s physical state.

These documents are also used in instances of primary care visits and annual physical checks, and less often with patients that present a specific health problem they may be experiencing.

Why Use A Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklist?

A head-to-toe assessment checklist is used to document the physical examination process and transfer health information between necessary parties.

For example, by recording relevant patient information, nurses are able to provide the necessary data to doctors and other medical experts who can translate the findings into a comprehensive care plan when needed.

Other benefits of using head-to-toe assessment checklists include:

  • Timely diagnosis of warning signs: The assessment checklist includes all the bodily systems. Care providers can follow the form to record their findings about the patient’s overall condition, including symptoms that could point to a more serious issue.
  • Organization: A physical examination includes many steps. Even for seasoned medical professionals, it’s easy to miss an area if you’re not careful. Head-to-toe examination checklists make sure that every step of the process is completed, documented and easy to follow.
  • A standardized approach: Head-to-toe assessment checklists allow medical professionals to maintain a consistent approach, ensuring uniformity in patient care and knowledge transfer from one medical professional to the next.
  • Improved communication: Using checklists facilitates communication among medical team members, ensuring that critical information is exchanged promptly and acted upon for subsequent care planning.
  • Training and education: Head-to-toe checklists serve as valuable educational tools for medical students, helping them understand and learn the components and sequence of a detailed physical examination.
A doctor conducting a physical assessment of a little girl​

Head-to-toe assessment checklists in nursing streamline the physical examination processes for patients of all age groups​

Head-ToToe Assessment Checklist Template 

Head-to-toe assessment checklists can vary depending on the healthcare provider, as well as the patient’s age, gender and medical history.

However, a general head-to-tie assessment checklist includes:

General Health Status

  • Collect vital signs
  • Take body temperature
  • Check heart rate
  • Measure blood pressure
  • Perform pulse oximetry
  • Check respiratory rate
  • Examine pain levels
  • Check weight, height and body mass index



  • Inspect for signs of asymmetry
  • Check for nodules or masses
  • Ask about discomfort and pain


  • Assess eye symmetry
  • Examine the sclera for redness, discharge or lesions
  • Inspect the pupil size
  • Examine the pupil’s response to light and movement
  • Check extraocular eye muscles
  • Perform a visual acuity test


  • Examine the outer and inner ears
  • Check for signs of bulging, discharge, inner scarring or lesions
  • Perform a whisper test


  • Palpate and assess nose symmetry
  • Make sure the patient can breathe through each nostril
  • Check for discharge and nasal polyps
  • Check the patient’s sense of smell

Mouth & Throat

  • Examine the lips for dryness, cracks and change of color
  • Inspect the teeth and gums
  • Examine the tongue
  • Examine the tonsils
  • Assess palate and buccal mucosa
  • Ask if the patient has difficulties swallowing


  • Examine the neck’s range of motion
  • Palpate lymph nodes
  • Check the trachea
  • Check for signs of jugular venous distention
  • Assess shoulder shrug with resistance


  • Examine the chest for visual chest defects
  • Assess chest expansion levels
  • Check heart sounds
  • Listen to lung sounds the front and back
  • Auscultate the apical pulse
  • Ask if the patient experiences difficulties breathing


  • Palpate the abdomen for tenderness or pain
  • Check the four abdominal quadrants for abnormal bowel sounds
  • Ask if the patient has bowel or bladder problems

Pulses & Vascular

  • Check for signs of arterial or venous disease
  • Inspect the skin for discoloration


  • Check the arms and legs for bruises, deformity and pain
  • Assess the strength of the upper and lower extremities
  • Determine whether the patient can identify both sharp and dull sensations in the arms and legs
  • Check for signs of abnormalities in nails


  • Check skin turgor
  • Check the skin for lesions, abrasions, rashes, tenderness and lumps


  • Examine balance and coordination
  • Check reflexes
  • Assess gait

Use this template as your starting point and customize it according to your patients and the needs of your medical practice.

How To Create A Custom Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklist

Creating comprehensive and user-friendly assessment checklists allows you to ensure standardized and high-quality patient care.

To build an efficient checklist, consider the following practical tips:

  • Organize your checklist from head to toe: Following a logical progression from top to bottom will ensure that your examination covers all important areas, promoting a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s health status.
  • Prioritize: Include essential assessment steps that directly impact patient care and facilitate accurate diagnosis and timely interventions.
  • Be specific: Use clear and concise language to avoid ambiguity and allow all healthcare professionals to understand and follow each checklist step.
  • Consider customization: Adapt your checklists to your patients by building separate checklists for different age groups or gender.
  • Use visual materials: Include diagrams and images of anatomical structures for clarity regarding each assessment area.
  • Leave room for notes: Include space for additional comments or observations, allowing for more detailed documentation when needed.
  • Ensure compliance: Make sure that your checklist adheres to all guidelines, including privacy guidelines and ethical standards.
  • Train users: Provide training on how to use the checklists effectively and interpret assessment findings correctly.
  • Seek feedback: Encourage medical professionals who are using the checklists to provide feedback on usability and efficacy.
  • Review and revise: Review and update your checklists on a regular basis to include changes in guidelines, best practices or feedback from patients.
  • Opt for digital checklists with doForms: Create digital head-to-toe assessment checklists to improve organization and storage, and streamline patient care.
A doctor uses a digital head-to-toe assessment checklist​

Digital head-to-toe assessment checklists allows easy accessibility and real-time updates​

How To Create A Digital Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklist With doForms

If you’re using paper head-to-toe assessment checklists, you’re likely dealing with organizational and storage issues.

In addition, if you need to consult the patient’s medical history or send their files to another healthcare provider, you may be unable to retrieve the information quickly due to the need to search for your paper resources in restricted physical locations.

The solution? DoForms.

doForms is a mobile forms solution built for professionals across industries, including healthcare professionals. It allows you to build and use custom medical checklists, store them securely and access them quickly when you need them.

Thanks to pre-made nursing head-to-toe physical assessment checklist templates and more than 30 drag-and-drop features, our DIY mobile forms provide both flexibility and scalability for creating custom checklists from scratch.

You can upload captured data from the exam directly to your cloud database from any smartphone or tablet device, access the information at any time and share it with other medical specialists or healthcare providers.

Our forms are HIPAA compliant to protect the healthcare information of your patients and allow you to secure electronic signatures.

In addition to physical assessment checklists, you can use doForms to:

  • Gain real-time visibility with patient data
  • Import patient data into your electronic health record system in real time
  • Export completed forms into patient charts
  • Create various types of waivers, including waivers of informed consent and waivers of refusal of treatment or care
  • Share checklists and forms with other healthcare professionals and necessary parties
  • Keep health information safe with HIPPA-compliance regulations

Some of the healthcare sectors that benefit from doForms include:

  • Physician and family medicine
  • Home healthcare
  • Complex pediatric care
  • Mental health services
  • Physical care
  • Behavioral health care
  • Hospice

Ready to give digital checklists a shot?
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Takeaways On Head-To-Toe Assessment Checklists

Head-to-toe assessment checklists help ensure that nurses and other healthcare professionals complete a full assessment of every patient during a physical examination, from inspecting their nailbeds for adverse health signs to measuring their vitals.

By providing full and timely insights into the health status of a patient, these checklists can point to early symptoms of serious medical conditions that may require urgent attention, allowing healthcare professionals to catch and treat potential issues early on.

doForms’ digital head-to-toe assessment checklists eliminate the need for excessive paperwork and offer ease of use, 24/7accessibility and the ability to update or adjust based on new guidelines or protocols.

doForms offers numerous customization options that allow you to seamlessly create head-to-toe assessment checklists that can benefit both your patients and your practice.

Ready to create your custom checklists?
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