How to Take Vital Signs

When it comes to evaluating a patient’s health functions properly, it is important to know how to take vital signs in the correct manner, irrespective of the fact whether you are just starting work at a clinic or studying at a nursing school. The article will arm you with all the necessary details on how to take vital signs perfectly.

  • First important step is to check the patient’s body temperature that will let you know how warm his or her body is. Remember, the average normal adult body temperature is 37.0 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit; however it can vary depending upon age or the place of the body where you are taking the temperature. For example, if you are taking it in the ear and rectal, the temperature would usually be about 1 degree Fahrenheit higher. In most clinics, the oral and ear positions are preferred for being cleaner and faster
  • Instruct the patient to open his or her mouth and lift up the tongue when finding the temperature orally. Ask the patient to close the mouth gently after putting the narrow end of the machine into it. It is advisable to use a digital thermometer that will flash the temperature on its screen or make a beeping sound to let you know that the temperature has been recorded successfully. If you are using a manual thermometer, then hold it by the end that is opposite to the colored (red, blue, or silver) tip. Shake the thermometer several times until it reads less than 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Instruct your patient to open his or her mouth and place the colored end of the thermometer under his or her tongue. Make sure the thermometer is clean. Keep a check that the patient doesn’t bite the glass. Once under the tongue, leave it there for about three minutes, and then take it out and find where the fluid stops by holding it an eye level. Once the readings are checked, keep the thermometer back in the case. Remember, each smaller mark is .2 degrees and every linger mark is 1 degree
  • If you are finding a temperature in the ear, then you need to place a digital thermometer plastic sleeve on the tip of the machine in order to activate the machine. To open the ear canal, just take the outer top portion of the ear or helix and gently pull slightly up and outward. Once done, place the tip of the thermometer in the patient’s ear and press gently until you sense a slight resistance. Go ahead and press the button on the outside of the thermometer and wait until it emits a beep sound. Then read the screen of the machine after slowly talking it out from the ear. To avoid cross-contaminating it, throw away the plastic sleeve when finished
  • Now comes the time to measure a patient’s pulse or heart rate. Heart rate can be said to be the number of times the heart beats in one minute. The normal pulse rate of an adult is 50-100 per minute. There are different ways by which you can check a patient’s heart rate or pulse. The most common and easiest way is below your thumb or on the inside of wrist. To measure the rate properly, you need to gently place – remember not to exert force – 2nd and 3rd fingers of your hand on the artery. Count the number of beats that you feel by using a clock or a watch with a second hand or timer. It might get a little difficult for a patient with an abnormal heart beat, but try to hold your nerve and do the best you can. Instead of an entire minute, you can also count either for 15 or 30 seconds and multiply accordingly. Carotid artery is another common place where you can check a patient’s pulse or heart rate, which is located in your neck directly below your jaw bone on either side of your windpipe. Once you have found the precise location, repeat the aforementioned act. You need to gently place your 2nd and 3rd fingers of your hand on that artery and with using a clock or a watch, count the number of beats that you sense. As already mentioned, you can count 15 or 30 seconds and multiply accordingly
  • Once done with the body temperature and pulse rate, it’s time to calculate the blood pressure, which can be described as the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries in the body. There are two numbers that are usually associated with blood pressure. The higher number, the systolic pressure, represents the pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood into human body. To the contrary, the lower number, the diastolic pressure, is associated with the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Medically, a normal systolic resting blood pressure for an adult is from 110-140, whereas a normal diastolic pressure ranges from 60-80. To measure blood pressure you need a device called sphygmomanometer, which is kind of a stethoscope. To get more accurate reading, tell the patient to expose his or her arm and then put the bottom edge of the cuff around one inch above the brachial artery, which is located in the inner area of a bent elbow. Wrap the cuff around the patient’s arm and close the valve on the bulb. Start pumping the bulb up to about 180 by placing the stethoscope on the patient’s brachial artery. Slowly release the valve and note when you first hear the pulse which is the systolic pressure and when it dies down it is the diastolic pressure

These are the ways if you follow precisely then you can learn how to take vital signs properly and without making any mistakes.


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