How to Get the Pulse and Respiratory Rate Without Using Medical Instruments

As a nursing assistant, one of my tasks is to monitor the vital signs of my client or patient regularly. The frequency of checking the vital signs depends on the physician’s order. For patients who are in critical condition or have just undergone operative procedure, nursing assistants like me are usually advised to do constant monitoring; say within 15 minutes until the vital signs become stable. While for those are not in critical condition but is sick, checking of vital signs is often done after 4 or 6 hours.

What are the things I have to check? This will definitely include body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate, and other changes on the patient's skin, eyes, etc. Adults and child have different vital signs range but in this post, I will be focusing on adult. The normal body temperature for adult usually ranges from 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius. Average pulse rate should not be less than 60 beats per minute but should not also exceed to 100 beats per minute. Normal respiratory rate is between 18 to 20 cycles per minute. One complete respiratory cycle is equivalent to 1 inhale and 1 exhale.  Meanwhile for the blood pressure, 120/80 millimeters of Mercury is the suggested normal reading. 

Getting the patient’s vital signs does not always need medical instruments. Some of them can be obtained through sensation and observation, just like the respiration rate and the pulse rate. In this type of examination, using of hospital or home medical equipment is not very necessary. As long as there is a properly functioning wristwatch or clock with a second hand, I can always obtain the accurate value for pulse and respiration of my patient. To get the pulse rate, what I do is to palpate the wall of radial artery using the tips of my two fingers (the index and middle fingers). The radial wall is found on the base of the thumb, with the hand out and the palm up. The number of pulsating beats that I accumulate within one minute will serve as my patient’s pulse rate.

Same as the pulse rate, the respiration rate can also be obtained without using medical instruments. To get the respiration rate, all I need is to look and count how many times the chest of the patient rise and fall within one minute. The rising of chest means the person is inhaling and the falling of chest means the person is exhaling. One inhale and one exhale sums up to one respiration cycle. In some patients, acquiring the respiration rate via chest is difficult. On situations like this, I observe the stomach instead.

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