Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

SKILLS - TAKING THE PULSE

  • Comment

WHAT IS THE PULSE?

Abstract

VOL: 99, ISSUE: 14, PAGE NO: 29

WHAT IS THE PULSE?
- The pulse is a series of pressure waves within an artery caused by contractions of the left ventricle (McFerran, 1998).

- It can be felt where an artery is near the surface of the body.

- In a healthy person the resting heart rate is 70-80 beats per minute.

- Tachycardia: rapid resting heart beat - over 100 beats per minute.

- Bradycardia: slow resting heart beat - under 60 beats per minute.

RECORDING THE PULSE
The site most commonly used to palpate the pulse is the wrist (radial pulse). Other pulses recorded are:

- Ulnar - at the wrist and in line with the small finger;

- Carotid - to the front of the neck;

- Brachial - in the join of the elbow (usually used for recording blood pressure);

- Femoral - felt in the groin;

- Popliteal - found behind the knee;

- Apical - a stethoscope is required to listen to the heart rate;

- Dorsalis pedis - found on the top part of the foot, between the big toe and the leg;

- Posterior tibial - found just to the lower side of the inner aspect of the ankle.

WHY IS THE PULSE RECORDED?
- To obtain information on the heart rate, pattern of beats and strength of the pulse.

- To determine the individual’s pulse on admission, as a baseline.

- To monitor changes in the pulse.

CONSIDERATIONS
- It is not just the pulse rate that is recorded - its rhythm and strength are also measured.

- The rhythm should be regular in a healthy person.

- The pulse should be strong and easily palpated - if it is bounding or weak then this is an indication that there is a possible problem.

- Other vital observations that are recorded at the same time as the pulse are blood pressure, respirations and temperature.

PROCEDURE
- You will need a watch that has a second hand.

- Explain to the patient what you are about to do.

- Ensure that the patient is as relaxed as possible - one who is distressed may have a faster pulse.

- Note: if the patient has taken any medication - this may alter the pulse rate.

- For convenience and ease it is best to record the radial pulse.

- Place your first and second finger along the artery - apply light pressure until you feel the pulse.

- Count the pulse for a full minute in order to detect any arrhythmias (abnormal rhythms).

- Make sure that the patient is comfortable.

- Document your findings on the patient’s observation chart.

- If the pulse is irregular this should be documented in the patient’s notes.

- Report any changes or irregularities to the nurse in charge and to the medical team.

WHEN AND HOW OFTEN?
The frequency of recording a patient’s pulse depends on their condition and illness.

A pulse recording is also required when a patient:

- Is receiving a blood transfusion;

- Is postoperative;

- Has cardiac problems;

- Is critically ill;

- Has an infection.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.