NCLEX Lab Values Review for Nursing Students

Updated September 15, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Lab values provide critical insight into patient health. Review common NCLEX lab values to prepare for your upcoming certification exam.

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NCLEX Lab Values Review for Nursing Students
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Lab values are a crucial part of the nursing and healthcare profession. On this page, we explore how the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) incorporates lab values into exam questions, and review common NCLEX lab values you need to know.

What Are Lab Values?

Laboratory testing involves checking samples of blood, urine, and tissue to monitor patient health and identify disease risk. Nurses and healthcare providers compare patient test results to healthy lab values — a set of upper and lower limits that provide a "normal" range.

Nurses spend a significant amount of time monitoring, recording, and analyzing patient lab results throughout their careers. This makes understanding normal lab values a key nursing skill.

How the NCLEX Uses Lab Values

The NCLEX exam is organized into four major client needs categories and their corresponding subcategories, including:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
    1. Management of Care
    2. Safety and Infection Control
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychological Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity
    1. Basic Care and Comfort
    2. Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
    3. Reduction of Risk Potential
    4. Physiological Adaptation

Test takers will find questions on lab values within the Reduction of Risk Potential subcategory. This subcategory evaluates whether nurses are able to reduce the risk of their patients developing health problems or complications — including by performing diagnostic testing and monitoring results.

Test takers will find questions on lab values within the Reduction of Risk Potential subcategory. This subcategory evaluates whether nurses are able to reduce the risk of their patients developing health problems or complications — including by performing diagnostic testing and monitoring results.

The current NCLEX examination guide asks test takers to be able to identify laboratory values for arterial blood gasses (ABG)s (pH, PO2, PCO2, SaO2, HCO3), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), total cholesterol, creatinine, glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C), hematocrit, hemoglobin, INR, platelets, potassium, PT, PTT & APTT, sodium, and WBC.

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NCLEX Lab Values Review

NCLEX lab value questions provide scenarios that ask you to compare patient laboratory values to normal laboratory values and identify what those lab values may indicate about a patient's health. Review the following normal laboratory values to prepare for the NCLEX.

Complete Blood Count

A complete blood count (CBC) test can help nurses and healthcare providers diagnose, monitor, and screen for many diseases, conditions, disorders, and infections. Below, we review normal measurements for the most common CBC NCLEX lab values.

Hemoglobin

  • Men: 13.0-17.0 g/dL
  • Women: 11.5-15.5 g/dL

Hematocrit

  • Men: 40%-55%
  • Women: 36%-48%

WBC: 5,000-10,000/nL

Platelet: 150,000-400,00/m

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

A comprehensive metabolic panel allows nurses and healthcare providers to evaluate a patient's kidneys and liver, electrolyte levels, protein levels, and blood sugar and calcium levels. Below, we review normal measurements for the most common metabolic panel NCLEX lab values.

Potassium: 3.7-5.2 mEq/L

Sodium: 135-145 mEq/L

Glucose (fasting): 70-110 mg/dL

BUN: 5-20

Serum Creatinine: 0.6-1.2 mg/dL

Liver Function Tests (LFTs):

  • ALP: 40-129 u/L
  • ALT: 7-56 u/L
  • AST: 8-48 u/L

Arterial Blood Gasses

An arterial blood gas test allows nurses and healthcare providers to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in a patient's blood. This offers information about conditions affecting the respiratory system, circulatory system, and metabolic processes. Below, we review normal measurements for ABG values tested on the NCLEX exam.

pO2: 75-100%

O2 Saturation: 95-100%

pH: 7.35-7.45

PaCO2: 35-45 mmHg

HCO3: 22-26 mEq/L

Coagulation Levels

Coagulation tests measure the blood's ability to clot, including how long it takes to clot. These tests provide nurses and healthcare providers with key information about bleeding or thrombosis risks. Below, we review normal coagulation measurements commonly tested on the NCLEX exam.

INR:

  • Not on Warfarin: 0.8-1.0 second
  • On Warfarin: 2.0-3.0 seconds

aPTT: 30-40 seconds

PT: 10-13 seconds

PTT: 25-35 seconds

Hemoglobin A1C

The hemoglobin A1C test measures average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. This allows nurses and healthcare providers to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Below, we review measurements A1C NCLEX lab values.

Normal: Below 5.7%

Prediabetes: 5.7%-6.4%

Diabetes: 6.5% and higher

Lipid Panel

A lipid panel or lipid profile tests the amount of cholesterol and other fats in the blood. This test helps nurses and healthcare providers screen and monitor a patient's risk for cardiovascular disease. Below, we review normal measurements for the most common lipid panel NCLEX lab values.

HDL: Over 40 mg/dL

LDL:

  • Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near Optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
  • Borderline High: 130-159 mg/dL
  • High: 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very High: 190 mg/dL and higher

Triglycerides (TGs):

  • Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline High: 150-199 mg/dL
  • High: 200-499 mg/dL
  • Very High: 500 mg/dL and higher
  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 g/dL

Cardiac Biomarkers

When the heart experiences damage or stress from low oxygen, it releases cardiac enzymes into the bloodstream.

Nurses and healthcare providers can use measurements of cardiac biomarkers to screen for heart damage, diagnose heart conditions, and monitor patient health while on heart medication or following surgery.

Troponin

  • Troponin I: 0-0.04 ng/mL
  • Troponin T: 0-0.01 ng/mL

Myoglobin

  • Men: Less than 91 ng/mL
  • Women: Less than 63 ng/mL

Creatine Kinase

  • Normal CK levels vary according to sex, race, activity level, and the lab's chosen test method.

Thyroid Levels

Thyroid blood tests help measure how well a patient's thyroid gland is functioning. Nurses and healthcare providers can use thyroid levels to diagnose hyper- or hypothyroidism and other associated conditions. Thyroid levels also allow for monitoring and adjustment of synthetic thyroid hormone prescriptions.

Thyroid-stimulating Hormone (TSH): 0.40-4.50 mIU/mL

T4: 5.0-11.0 ug/dL

FT4: 0.9-1.7 ng/dL

T3: 100-200 ng/dL

FT3: 2.3-4.1 pg/mL

Therapeutic Drug Levels

Nurses and healthcare providers rely on drug level monitoring when patients are taking drugs that can pose risks when over- or underdosed. The following common drugs may require periodic monitoring to reduce risk of adverse effects.

Digoxin: 0.8-2.0 ng/ml

Lidocaine: 1.5-5.0m mcg/mL

Lithium: 0.8-1.2 mEq/L

Phenobarbital: 10-30 mcg/mL

Phenytoin: 10-20 mcg/mL

Theophylline: 10-20 mcg/mL

Frequently Asked Questions About the NCLEX Exam


What lab values does the NCLEX use?

Common NCLEX lab values include ABGs, BUN, total cholesterol, creatinine, glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C), hematocrit, hemoglobin, INR, platelets, potassium, PT, PTT & APTT, sodium, and WBC. The NCLEX exam will ask test takers to recognize normal and abnormal lab values.

How do you memorize the lab values for NCLEX?

Memorizing NCLEX lab values can be challenging. In addition to relying on rote memorization techniques, test takers can use mnemonic devices and word associations to support recall. For example, associating "odd numbers" with the letters "OD" in sodium may help you remember the normal lab value begins with one, three, and five (135-145 mEq/L).

Is the NCLEX multiple choice?

Many of the questions on the NCLEX use a multiple-choice format. According to the 2019 NCLEX test plan, test takers may also encounter exam formats of multiple response, fill-in-the-blank calculation, hot spots, exhibit, ordered response, audio, and graphics.

How long should I study for the NCLEX?

Recommendations vary from 4-12 weeks, or longer, according to the level of preparation needed. Test takers should develop a personalized study schedule to help them stay on track and adequately prepare for the exam.


Page Last Reviewed: August 29, 2022


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