The practice and teaching of palpation of the head and neck: A scoping review

Epstein I., Herne P., Masita S., Peisachovich E., Da Silva C., Grosman-Rimon L., Lee C., Robinson B., Eliadis M.


Objective: To explore how palpation of the head and neck is practiced and taught.

Methods: The scoping review methodology was guided by Arksey and O’Malley’s five-stage approach. Three experienced and independent reviewers searched nine databases according to a predetermine inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Results: A total of 15 articles from medicine, chiropractic and dentistry published between 1987 and 2016 were included. Two overarching themes emerged, a Cartesian and a Pragmatic perspective in practicing and teaching palpating of the head and neck. Although both perspectives are valuable, we advocate to practice and teach palpation of head and neck from a Pragmatic perspective particularly with the increase use of ultrasound technology to detect masses. A pragmatic perspective takes into account the patient’s context, the ethics of care and highlights the importance of health care providers fostering interpersonal relationships with others during physical assessment.

Conclusions: Although nursing studies were absent from this review we believe nurses play a vital role when they are aware of the Cartesian and Pragmatics perspectives when practicing and teaching head and neck palpation as part of a physical assessment. Learning how other disciplines are practicing and teaching head and neck palpation skills will improve interdisciplinary collaboration. 

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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