Nursing Student
New Grad

02.06 High-Risk Behaviors

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  1. High risk behaviors
    1. Types of behavior
    2. Causes
    3. What you can do

Nursing Points


  1. High risk behaviors
    1. Substance Use
      1. Drugs
      2. Alcohol
      3. Tobacco
    2. Risky sexual activity
    3. Diet & exercise
      1. Poor nutrition
      2. Sedentary lifestyle
    4. Other risky behavior
      1. Unsafe firearm use or storage
      2. Unsafe vehicular behavior
  2. Causes
    1. Lack of general education
    2. Lack of understanding behavior
    3. Disregard
  3. What you can do
    1. Identify cause
    2. Educate patient on behavior
    3. Assess the ability of understanding

Nursing Concepts

  1. Safety
  2. Health Promotion

Patient Education

  1. Educate patient on types of high risk behavior
  2. Educate patient on likely outcomes associated with high risk behavior

Reference Links

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Video Transcript

In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at high risk behaviors.

First off, we’re going to take a look at different types of high risk behavior. The reason we want to do this is we need you need to focus on identifying the cause of high risk behavior because it tells us what diseases or injuries the patient may run into and how we can be proactive in planning our care.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco are all high risk behaviors. Drug use leads to poor decision making, and also some lead to disease, as does alcohol. Tobacco use is high risk because it has been known to cause different types of cancers and oral and lung disease.

Risky sexual behavior (like unprotected sex or multiple partners) also leads to higher chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which can sometimes have long term problems, or unplanned pregnancies.

Poor nutrition and lack of exercise may not seem like high risk behaviors, but there’s a ton of research in this area, and poor nutrition and low activity levels contribute to all sorts of long term illnesses, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease like stroke and hypertension, in addition to other disabilities.

There are also other types of risky behavior, such as unsafe use of firearms, or unsafe use of vehicles like texting and driving. And sometimes combining several of these issues create even much higher risk for injury or disease.

The idea here is identifying the different types of high risk behavior that could cause illness, injury or disease. But why does this happen? Let’s take a look at that.

In order to get a better understanding of high risk behavior, we need to understand why.

First off, a little evidence based practice for ya. There’s a ton of research in this area, and what the researchers have found is that there is support that low education levels actually have a relationship with high risk behaviors. What that means if a patient is poorly educated, they’re more likely to engage in things like smoking, drinking, drug use, or other risk behavior.

Now it also doesn’t mean that people who are highly educated aren’t clear of high risk behavior. Some patients just aren’t educated on the harms of a particular behavior, or they don’t understand the impact of the behavior on their health.

Then you have this other group of people who just don’t give a damn. And that’s the group that will frustrate you the most, I promise.

So how do we work to fix this issue? Let’s look at what you can do as the nurse.

Like we talked about before, identify the cause. What high risk behavior are they engaged it, and what do you think the cause is.

If it’s because the patient has a general lack of knowledge, then explain it to them. Educate them.

Is it because the patient doesn’t understand the impact of one particular behavior? Explain to them what could potentially happen to them in the long term. Some people just don’t understand it.

A real common one I’ve seen is people who don’t wear helmets when they ride motorcycles, because they say they aren’t going fast. Then I just tell them that I’ve taken care of those patients who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries because they got plowed into by a much larger vehicle at an intersection. It happens, and sometimes you have to level with them because they may not understand that one particular thing.

Lastly, like I said before, some people just don’t give a damn. And that’s ok too. While it’s not ok, realize that people will make their own decisions, and as long as you do your part in educating them, show them that YOU give a damn about them, and that this is what you’ve seen and you don’t want it happening to them, then sleep easy at night.

This job isn’t always pretty, but I’ve always slept ok at night because I did my part, and you should do yours too.

Because you want to focus on finding those risks for your patient, the big nursing concept for today is safety, and also focusing on health promotion for your patient as well.
Ok, so let’s recap.

When we talk about high risk behaviors, what are they. Drugs, alcohol, nutrition, crazy decisions when driving…these are all high risk behaviors.

What causes them? Lack of education is a huge factor and so is apathy, or the lack of caring.

So what can you do? Educate them until you’re blue in the face, and then some. Remember, at the end of the day, if you did all you can to explain to them why they shouldn’t be drinking and driving, and they still don’t get it, then sleep easy. The ones who don’t care are far less than those who do.

That’s it for our lesson on high risk behavior. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!!

  • Question 1 of 10

A nurse is performing a clinic intake assessment on a 16-year-old client. When the nurse asks the client about alcohol consumption, the client admits that he sometimes drinks to excess with his friends. Which response should the nurse utilize to talk about this topic?

  • Question 2 of 10

A diabetic client is talking with a nurse about diet and what foods to avoid. The client asks the nurse about drinking alcohol. Which response from the nurse would be correct?

  • Question 3 of 10

A nurse suspects that her 80-year-old client has an alcohol use disorder. Which of the following nursing actions should the nurse take if the client is intoxicated? Select all that apply.

  • Question 4 of 10

A nurse is working with a client who has smoked for 14 years. The client has mentioned wanting to quit but does not show any desire to move forward with quitting. Which intervention from the nurse would be most helpful in this situation?

  • Question 5 of 10

A client who is undergoing treatment for alcoholism is an inpatient in a rehabilitation facility. The nurse is talking to the client’s family, who is concerned about the client’s health. Which information would the nurse give to the family that would best help them to care for their family member?

  • Question 6 of 10

A client with alcohol use disorder is refusing to take his medication for treatment. He tells the nurse, “There is nothing wrong with me! I do not have a problem and I am fine!” The nurse understands that the client is most likely exhibiting which of the following?

  • Question 7 of 10

When assessing a client’s level of nutrition risk, the nurse uses the DETERMINE scale to determine if the client is at high risk of malnutrition or poor intake. Which best describes how the nurse would assess the D (disease) portion of the assessment?

  • Question 8 of 10

A 56-year-old client is being seen for injuries incurred while the client was intoxicated. The nurse utilizes the CAGE questionnaire during the assessment. What distinguishes this test from other alcohol abuse assessments?

  • Question 9 of 10

An 86-year-old client has developed protein energy malnutrition as a result of poor eating habits and difficulties with chewing and swallowing. Which best describes how poor nutrition contributes to skin breakdown in an elderly client?

  • Question 10 of 10

A nurse is working with a client who has tried to quit smoking for 3 months. The client tells the nurse, “I just do not think I can change. I can’t handle it.” Which action should the nurse employ that would appropriately handle this client’s situation? Select all that apply.

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