One of the first lessons in CNA training is learning to take vital signs. Vital signs are very important as they provide information on an individual’s functioning. Measurement for vital signs includes taking a pulse, checking a person’s temperature, checking blood pressure and checking the lungs for breathing rate.
Checking vital signs is important as it provides information on whether of not a person’s body is functioning properly. The rate of a person’s vital signs is compared to a standard number for his or her age and sex. Learning to administer the vital sign test accurately and efficiently will ensure that you have an up to date assessment of your patient’s condition.
Taking a person’s pulse is important for obtaining a superficial idea of how the heart is functioning. If the pulse is too fast or too slow or skips a beat these are indicators that there may be an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. There are a variety of places a pulse can be taken. Most people are familiar with placing the index, middle and ring fingers over the artery located in the wrist. You can also obtain a pulse from the arteries located in the neck, arms, on the chest by your heart, in the abdomen, thighs and the back of the knees. With a variety of pulse points available you are always able to get a superficial view of the heart’s functioning.
Temperature checks will supply you with information on whether or not the body is over or under heated. The baseline for a human temperature is 98 degrees. A little over or under this number is fine but extremes should be noted. Over heating of the body is known as a fever and can be an indicator of many different ailments from a minor cold to more serious diseases. Temperatures can be taken in a variety of ways. Most people are familiar with the use of a thermometer orally, anally or under the arm pit to obtain the body’s temperature. Thermometers also vary. There are the basic glass thermometers and now the digital variety. Thermometers are a great tool in accessing a patient’s internal condition.
Blood pressure checks provide information on how much force or pressure the blood is applying to the arteries or blood vessels. Monitoring blood pressure can provide information on whether or not a person’s pressure is too high or low and what treatments are needed to alleviate the condition. Measurement of blood pressure is done for both systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic pressure is the force of pressure while the heart’s ventricles are contracting and diastolic pressure is the force of pressure while ventricles are engulfed with blood. A normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80 with the top number representing systolic pressure and the bottom number diastolic pressures. Blood pressure for a patient can be obtained by using a manual sphygmomanometer which includes a cuff and a pump or there are a variety of electronic devices that now help to measure blood pressure.
Finally, checking the lungs for breathing or respiratory rate is important for determining lung health. Using a stethoscope, a nurse’s aide will ask a patient to breathe in and out while listening to the depth and number of times a person breathes. A person’s respiratory rate is an indicator of proper lung function, illness and other conditions so it is an important vital sign to monitor.