The Vital Sign

Now you are ready to measure the Vital Signs—the blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. You may find that the vital signs are already taken and recorded in the chart; if abnormal, you may wish to repeat them yourself. (You can also make these important measurements later as you start the cardiovascular and thorax and lung examinations, but often they provide important initial information that influences the direction of your evaluation.)

Check either the blood pressure or the pulse first. If the blood pressure is high, measure it again later in the examination. Count the radial pulse with your fingers, or the apical pulse with your stethoscope at the cardiac apex. Continue either of these techniques and count the respiratory rate without alerting the patient. (Breathing patterns may change if patient becomes aware that someone is watching.) The temperature is taken with glass thermometers, tympanic thermometers, or digital electronic probes. Further details on techniques for ensuring accuracy of the vital signs are provided in the following pages.

See Table 3-9, Abnormalities of the Arterial Pulse and Pressure Waves (p.__). See Table 3-12 Abnormalities in Rate and Rhythm of Breathing (p. ___).

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