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NCLEX Wednesday #15 – NCLEX Lab Values


As you're studying for the NCLEX, make sure you memorize these labs!It’s that time again. Wherever you are in the process of studying for the National Council Licensure Examination, the study tips we’ve assembled in this series and our free ebook should help you pass the NCLEX.

For this set of NCLEX study tips, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of giving you a handful of strategies you can use for a particular theme or type of question, we’re focusing on NCLEX lab values — particularly the labs you need to know.

About the NCLEX and lab values

Before getting in to those specifics, though, it’s important to know that lab value questions on the NCLEX will not ask merely for normal ranges of any specific labs. Questions like this would be simple knowledge questions, and the NCLEX is written at the analysis/application level.

So, while you may see an NCLEX question that includes normal and abnormal laboratory results, the true underlying purpose of this question is to determine if you can recognize abnormal results and act on what you know. Essentially, the NCLEX wants to know if you can analyze laboratory results, recognize an abnormal result, and (most importantly) do something to fix the problem — or at least not make it worse.

Common labs on the NCLEX

Some of these labs may vary a little from what you’re used to. You may remember lab values can change based on where you live and work (i.e sea level vs. Mount Everest). The lab results in your hospital may be a little different, but remember this is the NCLEX hospital, at perfect elevation, in a wonderful place where you always have enough staff and resources available at all times. Don’t worry about the exact numbers. Any NCLEX question that includes labs will be out of range enough for you to notice.

Blood gases:

  • pH: 7.35-7.45
  • PaO2: 80-100 mm Hg
  • PaCO2: 35-45 mm Hg
  • HCO3: 22-26 mEq/L
  • SaO2: >95%

Total Cholesterol: <200 mg/dL

HDL:

  • Females: 35-80 mg/dL
  • Males: 35-65 mg/dL

LDL:  <130 mg/dL

Triglycerides: <150 mg/dL

WBC: 5,000 – 10,000/uL

Platelets: 150,000 – 400,000 mm3

Hemoglobin:

  • Females: 12-16 g/dL
  • Males: 14-18 g/dL

Hematocrit:

  • Females: 37-47%
  • Males: 42-52%

PT: 11-12.5 seconds (therapeutic—for someone on warfarin is 1.5-2.5 times the normal range—-16-31 seconds)

aPTT:

  • Therapeutic range: 30-40 seconds
  • For someone on Heparin, it’s 1.5-2 times the normal range: 45-80 seconds

INR:

  • Therapeutic range for someone on warfarin: 2-3
  • For someone not on warfarin: 0.8-1.1

D-dimer: 0-250 ng/mL (may also be reported as Positive or Negative)

Fibrinogen levels: 170-340 mg/dL

Fibrin degradation products: <10 mcg/mL

Sodium: 135-145 mEq/L

Potassium: 3.5-5 mEq/L

Chloride: 98-106 mEq/L

Calcium: 9-10.5 mg/dL

Magnesium:

  • Therapeutic range: 1.3-2.1mEq/L
  • For someone on magnesium: 4-7mEq/L

Phosphorus: 3.5-4.5 mg/dL

AST (aspartate aminotransferase): 5-40 units/L

ALT (alanine aminotransferase): 8-20 units/L

ALP (alkaline phosphatase): 42-128 units/L

Amylase: 56-90 IU/L

Lipase: 0-110 units/L

Total bilirubin: 0-1 mg/dL

Direct (conjugated) bilirubin: 0-0.3 mg/dL

Indirect (unconjugated) bilirubin: 0.1-1 mg/dL

Albumin: 3.5-5 g/dL

Alpha-fetoprotein: <40 mcg/L

Ammonia: 15-110 mg/dL

BUN: 10-20 mg/dL

Serum creatinine: 0.6-1.2 mg/dL

Creatinine clearance:

  • Females: 80-125 mL/min
  • Males: 90-139 mL/min

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): 125 mL/min

Fasting blood glucose: <110 mg/dL

Oral glucose tolerance test: <140 mg/dL

Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c):

  • 5% or less indicates absence of diabetes mellitus
  • 5.7%-6.4% indicates prediabetes mellitus
  • 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes mellitus

T3: 70-205 ng/dL

T4: 4-12 mcg/dL

TSH: 0.4-6 microunits/mL

Urine specific gravity: 1.003-1.030

We know this is a lot of NCLEX lab values, but you need to know them to be a nurse — and to pass the NCLEX!

P.S. We love feedback. Post to our Facebook page or give us a shout on Twitter with comments or requests for specific information you’d like to see in the series.

Happy studying, and see you with more NCLEX study tips soon!

– Cheryl Armstrong, MS, RN
– Britt Baer, RN, MSN-HCSM, SANE

For more NCLEX study strategies and advice, you can download our full NCLEX ebook here, for free!

About NCLEX Wednesday: AmeriTech’s NCLEX review course has helped our nursing students pass the NCLEX with flying colors. We’re spreading the love to all nursing students as part of a weekly series. Nurses unite!