What is a sample story?

A SAMPLE history is a quick overview of a patient's pertinent medical history to assist care providers in the process of offering appropriate interventions. "SAMPLE" is a mnemonic to help healthcare providers remember all the information they need to collect when taking a patient's history. Paramedics, nurses, doctors, and other first points of contact in a medical emergency are familiar with the process of quickly gathering relevant information to help with patient care and make decisions in tense situations.

At the same time, a care provider collects a SAMPLE history, she also usually takes vital signs and makes some general observations of the patient. In cases where history collection is not possible because a patient is unconscious or in an altered state, observation can provide very important clues about the patient's condition.

The "S" in the SAMPLE history stands for signs and symptoms, including those reported by the patient and those that the care provider may observe during the interview. A patient may report shortness of breath, for example, and the care provider might notice that the patient is having trouble speaking because of her breathing problems. Care providers also ask about allergies, including drug allergies that can complicate treatment.

Next in the SAMPLE story is medication, any medication a patient may be taking. These include over-the-counter preparations as well as prescriptions. It is helpful to provide information on any medications that a patient has recently stopped taking, as these may remain in the system and cause complications. The "P" refers to past medical history, with a specific focus on similar problems. Asthma or allergies may be relevant if a patient is wheezing and coughing, for example, while a broken leg 15 years ago might not be as relevant.

The "L", or last oral intake, is also information that the care provider wants to collect. This can be helpful in screening for allergies. It may also be important if a patient needs emergency surgery, as recent food or drink consumption could complicate general anesthesia. Finally, the care provider taking the SAMPLE history wants information about the event(s) that led the patient to seek treatment. Sometimes this can be obvious; paramedics responding to a car accident do not need to ask why they are there. In other cases, the patient may need to provide some background information to help the care provider understand the main complaint and the reason for seeking treatment.

Go up