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Easy Steps on How to Take a Pulse

There are several reasons why patients should monitor their pulse, particularly when they suffer from a cardiovascular ailment and similar medical conditions. Primarily, nurses handle this crucial task of keeping track of their patients’ pulse to prevent issues when they take the prescribed medication for their illness. This guide will help aspiring nurses understand more about the normal pulse rate and proper techniques on checking the pulse.

The Pulse: Understanding the Basics

The pulse refers to a person’s heart rate, or the number of beats that the heart makes per minute. The resting heart rate of the person is considered as the pulse when he or she is at rest. Normally, healthy adults have a resting heart rate of 60 up to 100 beats every minute, depending on their energy levels.

It is important to note that pulse rates are not the same in everyone. In fact, the pulse increases as one engages in certain physical activities such as sports or upon taking medications that can speed up the pulse. Other factors that affect an individual’s heart rate include strong emotions, activity or fitness level, body position, and air temperature.

How to Check a Person’s Pulse

The best spot to feel your patient’s pulse is by locating the arteries close to the skin. However, there are several other common arteries that are used for taking the pulse rate such as the apical, radial and carotid. The following guide presents each location of arteries used in checking the pulse, as well as the steps involved in the process.

1. Radial Pulse

In this method, nurses locate the patient’s radial artery, which is inside the wrist that is nearer to the thumb. When taking the radial pulse, you should use a dial clock or watch as you count the pulse rate of the patient. Begin by asking your patient to place one arm at the side while bending the elbow with palms faced upward. Then, use your index and middle fingers as you look for the pulse rate of the radial artery. Avoid using your thumb in taking the pulse because this part of your hand has its specific pulse.

For proper monitoring purposes, it is necessary that nurses list down the date and time when pulse was taken. In addition, you need to indicate in your reports the specific wrist where you took the patient’s pulse. This way, you will be able to monitor your patient’s condition and provide the best medical support that suits their needs.

2. Carotid Pulse

By checking the right or left outer part of your patients’ neck, you will be able to find their carotid arteries and check their pulse. Use your index and middle fingers when locating the artery, and choose only one side of the neck to observe and record the heart rate. When you have found the accurate spot of the carotid pulse, you should count the number of pulses each minute. Prepare a report of the patients’ carotid pulse including the date and time it is taken. As you perform this technique, pay attention to the strong or weak heartbeat, as well as any serious physical issues among these patients.

3. Apical Pulse

In this method, the patient’s heart is checked to obtain a pulse, and this is done by placing the stethoscope over this vital organ. You may request the patient to sit up or lie down depending on what is comfortable for him or her. Afterwards, place the earpiece in your ears and position the disk portion of the tool over your patients’ heart. Upon hearing your patients’ heartbeat, you can begin counting the number of beats for 60 seconds. You should listen for a weak, strong or missed heartbeat, by using a watch that comes with a second hand. Make it a point to record the pulse time and date for future reference, and make sure your nurse is aware of any existing issues.

Bottom Line

When checking the pulse, nurses can select from a number of options that are convenient for them and their patients. There are those who locate their patients’ apical pulse using a stethoscope, while others may prefer the radial or carotid arteries for determining the pulse rate. No matter what the technique used, it is important that nurses master the skill of locating and checking the pulse, as this is an integral part of every clinic visit.

Video on How to Measure a Pulse


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