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Recognising and responding to acute deterioration in adult patients

CPD Hours



All Modules
Clinical practice and procedures
Aged care


Serious adverse events in hospitalised patients, including medical emergencies and mental health complications, such as suicide, violence, and aggression, are often preceded by abnormal clinical observations.

Early identification of these abnormalities allows for a prompt and effective medical response that can improve outcomes, lessen the complexity of interventions required to stabilise the patient, and prevent in-hospital mortality.

All acute care settings in Australia must maintain effective systems for recognising and responding to acute deterioration.

In particular, nurses are responsible for recognising patients who are unwell, escalating care, supporting an appropriate medical response, and communicating the plan of care with patients, carers, and families.

This course is focused on recognising and responding to deterioration in adult patients in acute healthcare facilities.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Describe the three steps to recognising and responding to acute deterioration: Detecting and recognising acute deterioration, Escalating care, and Responding to acute deterioration.
  • Understand the role of vital signs monitoring and documentation in identifying patients who are deteriorating.
  • Identify early warning signs to indicate changes in an individual’s mental state.
  • Identify the parameters and indicators used to initiate an escalation of care.
  • Recognise worry and concern by clinicians, patients, families, and carers as an essential indicator of acute deterioration.
  • Describe a tiered escalation protocol and recommendations for caring for patients in the ‘yellow zone’, ‘red zone’, and those experiencing a medical emergency.
  • Understand how an appropriate response to acute deterioration is provided through timely access to care, advanced life support, and referral to mental health services or specialised health services, as appropriate.
  • Describe the importance of communicating the plan of care with clinicians, patients, carers, and families.
  • Identify key features of documentation following recognition and response to an acute deterioration.

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