Norton Scale

Learn about the Norton Scale, a tool used in healthcare to assess the risk of pressure ulcers. Understand its significance and application.

By Joshua Napilay on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is the Norton Scale?

The Norton Scale, also known as the Norton Risk Assessment Scale or two risk assessment scales, is widely used in healthcare research and clinical practice for predicting pressure ulcer development, particularly in senior nursing settings. This scale helps assess the risk factors associated with pressure ulcer development by evaluating various patient characteristics and physical conditions.

Developed by Doreen Norton, the Norton Scale consists of five components: physical condition, mental condition, activity, mobility, and incontinence. Each element is scored on a scale ranging from 1 to 4, with a higher score indicating a lower risk of developing pressure ulcers. The final score, which ranges from 5 to 20, categorizes patients into different risk levels: very high risk, high risk, medium high-risk patients, and low risk.

Healthcare professionals, including nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and wound ostomy continence nurses, often use the Norton Scale alongside clinical judgment to accurately assess patients' risk of pressure ulcers. 

However, it's essential to note that the Norton Scale has limitations, and its predictive validity may vary depending on the population and setting. Therefore, it's crucial to consider other risk assessment tools and scales, such as the Braden Scale, in decision-making processes regarding pressure ulcer prevention and patient care.

Printable Norton Scale

Download this Norton Scale to assess the risk of developing pressure ulcers in patients, facilitating preventive measures and enhancing overall wound care management for better patient outcomes.

When is this scale used?

The Norton Scale is typically used in various healthcare settings, particularly in senior care, acute care settings, and rehabilitation facilities. It is employed during the initial assessment of patients to determine their risk of developing pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores or pressure injuries.

Healthcare professionals utilize the Norton Scale when:

  • Admitting patients to healthcare facilities: Patients are often assessed using the Norton Scale to identify those at risk of pressure ulcer development. This allows healthcare providers to implement preventive measures promptly.
  • Conducting routine patient assessments: Nurses and other healthcare professionals routinely assess patients using the Norton Scale during their stay in healthcare facilities. This helps monitor changes in patients' conditions and adjust preventive interventions accordingly.
  • Planning patient care: The Norton Scale assists healthcare teams in developing individualized care plans tailored to patients' specific needs, mainly focusing on preventing pressure ulcers by addressing identified risk factors.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of preventive measures: Regular reassessment using the Norton Scale enables healthcare providers to assess the efficacy of preventive interventions and make necessary adjustments to the care plan.
  • Discharging patients: Before discharging patients from healthcare facilities, the Norton Scale may assess their current risk status and recommend continued preventive care at home or in other settings.

How is it answered?

The Norton Scale is answered through a systematic assessment of five key components:

  • Physical condition: This component evaluates the overall physical health of the patient, including factors such as nutritional status, skin integrity, and the presence of comorbidities that may affect the risk of pressure ulcer development. It may involve observing the patient's skin condition, assessing for signs of malnutrition or dehydration, and considering any existing medical conditions.
  • Mental condition: The patient's mental state is assessed to determine their cognitive function and awareness. This component considers factors such as orientation to person, place, and time and cognitive impairment or psychiatric conditions that may impact the patient's ability to perceive and report discomfort or pain.
  • Activity: The level of physical activity and engagement in daily activities is evaluated. This includes assessing the patient's ability to independently move and reposition themselves, participate in activities of daily living, and engage in mobility exercises or rehabilitation programs.
  • Mobility: Mobility refers to the patient's ability to move independently or with assistance. It assesses factors such as range of motion, muscle strength, ability to change positions, and use of mobility aids or assistive devices.
  • Incontinence: This component considers the presence and severity of urinary or fecal incontinence and the frequency of episodes. Incontinence can contribute to moisture-related skin damage and increase the risk of pressure ulcer development.

Each component is typically scored on a scale ranging from 1 to 4, with 1 indicating the highest level of impairment or risk and 4 indicating the lowest. The scores from each component are then totaled to calculate the patient's overall Norton Scale score, which ranges from 5 to 20. A lower score indicates a higher risk of pressure ulcer development, while a higher score suggests a lower risk of pressure sore back.

Healthcare professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists, or wound care specialists, are responsible for conducting the Norton Scale assessment based on their clinical expertise and knowledge of the patient's condition. They may use direct observation, patient interviews, medical records, and other relevant information to assess each component and assign appropriate scores accurately.

What are the next steps after interpreting the scores?

After interpreting the scores obtained from the Norton Scale assessment, the following steps typically involve:

Developing a care plan

Based on the Norton Scale scores and the identified risk level for pressure ulcer development, healthcare professionals, particularly nurses and wound care specialists, develop an individualized care plan for pressure sore risk for each patient. This care plan outlines specific interventions and preventive measures tailored to the patient's needs and risk factors.

Implementing preventive measures

Healthcare providers implement preventive measures to reduce pressure injury and the risk of pressure ulcer development. These measures may include regular repositioning of immobile patients, using pressure-relieving support surfaces such as specialized mattresses or cushions, optimizing nutrition and hydration, maintaining skin integrity through proper hygiene and skincare practices, and addressing factors contributing to incontinence.

Monitoring and reassessment

Patients' skin integrity and overall condition are regularly monitored to detect signs of pressure ulcer development or worsening. Healthcare providers conduct ongoing assessments and reassessments using the Norton Scale or other appropriate tools to track changes in patient risk status and adjust the care plan.

Education and training

Patients, caregivers, and family members receive education and training on prevention strategies, proper skin and skin wound care and techniques, nutrition and hydration, and the early signs of pressure ulcers. Empowering patients and caregivers with knowledge and skills enables them to participate actively in preventive measures and promotes better outcomes.

Collaboration and communication

Interdisciplinary collaboration among healthcare team members, including nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and nutritionists, is essential to ensure comprehensive care and effective pressure ulcer prevention. Clear communication channels facilitate the exchange of information, care coordination, and timely interventions to address patients' needs.

Documentation and evaluation

Accurate documentation of the Norton Scale scores, interventions implemented, and patient outcomes is essential for tracking progress and evaluating the effectiveness of preventive measures. Regular evaluation of the care plan helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that interventions are tailored to meet the patient's changing needs.

Norton Scale example

Unlock the power of comprehensive pressure ulcer risk assessment with our free Norton Scale example! Our template provides a user-friendly interface for evaluating patients' risk levels and generating personalized care plans. 

Whether a nurse, caregiver, or healthcare professional, this tool empowers you to make informed decisions and implement adequate preventive measures to safeguard patient skin health.

Our Norton Scale example ensures accurate risk assessment and promotes optimal patient outcomes with easy-to-use features and customizable options. Don't miss out on this invaluable resource – download our free Norton Scale example today and take proactive steps toward pressure ulcer prevention!

Download our free Norton Scale example here

Norton Scale example

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What is the Norton Scale used for?
What is the Norton Scale used for?

Commonly asked questions

What is the Norton Scale used for?

The Norton Scale assesses an adult's risk of developing a pressure ulcer by evaluating five categories: physical condition, mental condition, activity, mobility, and incontinence.

How is the Norton Scale scored?

The Norton Scale assigns a score of 1-4 for each category based on the individual's condition. Lower scores indicate a higher risk of developing bedsores. Generally, individuals scoring 14 or less are considered at risk.

What are the risk categories based on Norton Scale scores?

Norton Scale scores categorize individuals into risk levels: a score above 18 indicates low risk, 18-14 indicates medium risk, 13-10 indicates high risk, and a risk score below 10 indicates very high risk.

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