skip to main content
In this section... (Click to Open)

Functional Abilities

* Sixteen Categories of Recommended Functional Abilities for Nurses

The student's health must enable him/her to fulfill the requirements and outcomes of the nursing program. The Heartland Community College Nursing Program recommends the following as functional abilities for nurses.

Category Description
Gross Motor Skills Gross motor skills sufficient to provide the full range of safe and effective nursing care activities.
Fine Motor Skills Fine motor skills sufficient to perform manual psychomotor skills.
Physical Endurance Physical stamina sufficient to perform client care activities for entire length of work role.
Physical Strength Physical strength sufficient to perform full range of required client care activities.
Mobility Physical abilities sufficient to move from place to place and to maneuver to perform nursing activities.
Hearing Auditory ability sufficient for physical monitoring and assessment of client health care needs.
Visual Visual ability sufficient for accurate observation and performance of nursing care.
Tactile Tactile ability sufficient for physical monitoring and assessment of health care needs.
Smell Olfactory ability sufficient to detect significant environmental and client odors.
Reading Reading ability sufficient to comprehend the written word at a minimum of a tenth grade level.
Arithmetic Arithmetic ability sufficient to do computations at a minimum of an eighth grade level. It includes the following three concepts: Counting: the act of enumerating or determining the number of items in a group. Measuring: the act or process of ascertaining the extent, dimensions, or quantity of something. Computing: the act or process of performing mathematical calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Emotional Stability Emotional stability sufficient to assume responsibility/accountability for actions.
Analytical Thinking Reasoning skills sufficient to perform deductive/inductive thinking for nursing decisions.
Critical Thinking Skills Critical thinking ability sufficient to exercise sound nursing judgment.
Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal abilities sufficient to interact with individuals, families, and groups, respecting social, cultural, and spiritual diversity.
Communication Skills Communication abilities sufficient for interaction with others in oral and written form.

* Functional Ability Categories and Representative Activities/Attributes

The student's health must enable him/her to fulfill the requirements and outcomes of the nursing program. The Heartland Community College Nursing Program follows the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. recommendations of functional abilities for nurses.

Gross Motor Skills

  • Move within confined spaces
  • Sit and maintain balance
  • Stand and maintain balance
  • Reach above shoulders (e.g., IV poles)
  • Reach below waist (e.g., plug electrical appliance into wall outlets)

Fine Motor Skills

  • Pick up objects with hands
  • Grasp small objects with hands (e.g., IV tubing, pencil)
  • Write with pen or pencil
  • Key/type (e.g., use a computer)
  • Pinch/pick or otherwise work with fingers (e.g., manipulate a syringe)
  • Twist (e.g., turn objects/knobs using hands)
  • Squeeze with finger (e.g., eye dropper)
  • Physical Endurance
  • Stand (e.g., at client side during surgical or therapeutic procedure)
  • Sustain repetitive movements (e.g., CPR)
  • Maintain physical tolerance (e.g., work entire shift)

Physical Strength

  • Push and pull 25 pounds (e.g., position clients)
  • Support 25 pounds of weight (e.g., ambulate client)
  • Lift 25 pounds (e.g., pick up a child, transfer client)
  • Move light objects weighing up to 10 pounds (e.g., IV poles)
  • Move heavy objects weighing from 11 to 50 pounds
  • Defend self against combative client
  • Carry equipment/supplies
  • Use upper body strength (e.g., perform CPR, physically restrain a client)
  • Squeeze with hands (e.g., operate fire extinguisher)


  • Twist
  • Bend
  • Stoop/squat
  • Move quickly (e.g., response to an emergency)
  • Climb (e.g., ladders/stools/stairs)
  • Walk


  • Hear normal speaking level sounds (e.g., person-to-person report)
  • Hear faint voices
  • Hear faint body sounds (e.g., blood pressure sounds, assess placement of tubes)
  • Hear in situations when not able to see lips (e.g., when masks are used)
  • Hear auditory alarms (e.g., monitors, fire alarms, call bells)


  • See objects up to 20 inches away (e.g., information on a computer screen, skin conditions)
  • See objects up to 20 feet away (e.g., client in a room)
  • See objects more than 20 feet away (e.g., client at end of hall)
  • Use depth perception
  • Use peripheral vision
  • Distinguish color (e.g., color codes on supplies, charts, bed)
  • Distinguish color intensity (e.g., flushed skin, skin paleness)

Interpersonal Skills

  • Negotiate interpersonal conflict
  • Respect differences in clients
  • Establish rapport with clients
  • Establish rapport with co-workers

Communication Skills

  • Teach (e.g., client/family about health care)
  • Explain procedures
  • Give oral reports (e.g., report on client's condition to others)
  • Interact with others (e.g., health care workers)
  • Speak on the telephone
  • Influence people
  • Direct activities of others
  • Convey information through writing (e.g., progress notes)

The College offers services for students with documented sensory, physical, learning, or other disabilities.  Students must submit appropriate documentation and then participate in an interactive process with Disability Support Services to determine reasonable accommodations.  Students with documented disabilities may benefit from the following accommodations:  notetakers, testing accommodations (extended time, readers, scribes), sign language interpreters, and a host of others.  If you believe you are eligible to receive accommodations due to a documented disability, please contact Disability Support Services.

* National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.

Nursing Department

Visit the Nursing Department