Beyond standard vitals like temperature and pulse rate, all nurses need to be able to accurately take a patient’s respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure. When taking a respiratory rate, or RR, many factors like age, exercise level, and medications the patient may be on can affect your reading. Most importantly, do not let your patient know that you are taking their RR, because they are bound to breath differently and give you wacky results. Think of it like a spy mission and pretend you are still taking their pulse rate, when really you’re accumulating all kinds of information!
The average RR of an adult is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. When taking a blood pressure reading, the left arm is preferable as it is closest to the patient’s heart. Be sure to place the BP cuff at least one to two inches above the elbow crease and don’t forget to wipe off your stethoscope with an alcohol swab before and after the procedure. Be sure to feel the patient’s pulse while inflating the cuff – once you can no longer feel the pulse of the patient, release the pressure, and add the 30mm standard to whatever reading you took. This new number will be the pressure point at which you inflate to for your second reading, this time using your stethoscope. The Korotkoff sound will give you both the systolic and the diastolic pressure. And, of course, be sure to properly clean and store all of your equipment after the procedure.