Unit 12 Physiological Principles for HSC

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The aim of this unit is to provide a holistic overview of the structure and functioning of the human body as appropriate for those working in health and social care.

Unit abstract

The focus of this unit is on how the body functions as a whole rather than on detailed anatomy and physiology from a biological perspective. The emphasis is on exploring those aspects of body functioning which impact on care delivered in health and social care settings. Learners will gain an understanding of the main structures of the body and the appropriate terminology encountered when working with health professionals. Learners need to recognise the names of key structures, their positions in the body and main functions. They will explore the purpose behind gathering routine data from individuals accessing health and social care services as well as routine variations.

Learning outcomes

1 Know the structure and functioning of the human body

  • Main anatomical features: gross features eg trunk, limbs, head, abdomen, pelvis; skeleton eg names of limb bones, pelvis, regions of vertebral column, bone groups, principles of joints, support, blood cell functions and calcium reservoir of bone; soft tissues eg contractility of muscle, conductivity of nervous tissue, structural function of ligaments and tendons, secretory and absorptive function of epithelial tissues; body organs eg heart, liver, kidney, lungs, position and overall functions, key terminology associated with them eg cardiac, hepatic, renal, pulmonary
  • Body systems: main structures and functions of eg cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous, endocrine, locomotor, integumentory, sensory, reproductive
  • Functioning: to maintain life (respiration, feeding, excretion); for other activities (sensory perception, movement, coordination, reproduction)
  • Metabolism: chemical nature of body activity, rate at which energy used; changes in metabolic rate eg during exercise, over lifespan
  • Growth: production of more cells eg during development, in tumours; increased size of cells eg adipose tissue in obesity; tissue turnover/replacement eg in skin, hair, nails; destruction of tissues eg from wear and tear; depletion of tissues eg from disuse, starvation; as increasing complexity (differentiation and specialisation) eg childhood and adolescent development.
  • Interactions: eg in digestion and transport of nutrients, in propripception (position and balance), pulmonary functioning, excretion, temperature regulation.

2 Understand the relationship between body functioning and relevant detailed anatomy and physiology

  • Everyday activities: breathing, eating, excreting, physical activity
  • Detailed anatomy: selected tissues eg muscle, bone, epithelia; cellular structures as appropriate eg cell membrane, chromosomes
  • Detailed functioning: physiology eg gaseous exchange in lungs, absorption of nutrients, principle of filtration and selective reabsorption in kidneys, metabolic response to exercise
  • Regulation of internal activities: regulation of eg body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood sugar, urine output
  • Coordination: role of endocrine system, role of the autonomic nervous system and links to the central nervous system
  • Homeostasis: principle of feedback loops to raise or lower relevant parameters.

3 Understand how routine data collected in health and social care informs the planning of care for individuals

  • Measures:as relevant eg visual observation, weight/height, temperature, pulse, respiration rate, blood pressure, food intake, fluid intake, fluid output, indicator tests on urine (eg glucose, protein); recording of measures: correct units, tabulated, charts, graphs, interpretation of records
  • Information: as relevant to measurement taken eg heart rate, peak flow, over/under weight, hydration, diabetic stability, infection
  • Accuracy: sources of error, reliability, validity; concept of normal range, hypo- and hypervalues
  • Derived measures: as relevant eg Body Mass Index (BMI), fluid balance, nutritional health (intake against requirement eg energy balance); monitoring (regular recording) variations in measures over time
  • Care: monitoring course of health/disorder/disease, care planning, care routines, professionals involved, reporting data to professionals, recognising need for emergency responses
  • Ethical considerations: when taking measures and using data eg individual rights, dignity,Privacy.

4 Be able to relate routine variations in body structure and functioning to care received by individuals

  • Age: comparison of structural and functional changes between young adulthood, later life and old age; if appropriate, developmental change during childhood and adolescence


  • physical: absence, loss or impaired function of tissues, organs and systems eg incontinence, ataxia; degeneration of structure eg bone in osteoporosis, cartilage in osteoarthritis, pulmonary tissue in emphysema, neural tissue in Parkinson’s disease.
  • psychological: effects eg confidence, cognitive abilities, invasion of privacy (eg assistanc with toileting, bathing)
  • social: effects eg isolation due to hearing loss, loss of mobility, autonomy.
  • Common disorders: as relevant eg diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune related, pulmonary disease, inherited, congenital, degenerative
  • Infections: as encountered in eg wounds, respiratory tract, urinary tract; signs and symptoms related to physiology; principles of an immunological response and factors that influence it eg age, nutritional status, immunosuppression from cancer therapy or underlying disease states
  • Routine care: activities of daily living; general consequences for care or treatment eg by drugs, surgery; infection control; rehabilitation; principles of palliative care.


  • Garvey, W.T., Ryan, D.H., Bohannon, N.J.V., Kushner, R.F., Rueger, M., Dvorak, R.V. &Troupin, B. 2014, "Weight-loss therapy in type 2 diabetes: effects of phentermine and topiramate extended release", Diabetes care, vol. 37, no. 12, pp. 3309-3316.
  • Goodwin, K., Syme, C., Abrahamowicz, M., Leonard, G.T., Richer, L., Perron, M., Veillette, S., Gaudet, D., Paus, T. & Pausova, Z. 2013, "Routine Clinical Measures of Adiposity as Predictors of Visceral Fat in Adolescence: A Population-Based Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study: e79896", PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 11.

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