A Pulse Rate is the number of heart beats per minute. A normal adult's pulse rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Abnormal rates should be reported immediately to the nurse.

The Respiration Rate is the number of breaths a patient takes per minute. A healthy adult’s respiration will be 12 to 20 breaths per minute. The respiration rates are counted right after the pulse is taken, while the patient is resting and unaware you are counting.


  • A watch with a second hand

How to Measure Pulse:

  1. Knock on the patient’s door, then enter

  2. Greet patient by name, introduce yourself, and what you are doing

  3. Provide for privacy by shutting the curtains

  4. Wash your hands

  5. Check the patient’s ID to confirm identity

  6. Lie the patient down and support their forearm with one hand

  7. Place fingers on radial pulse (located on thumb side of wrist)

  8. Once pulse is found, record the patient’s heartbeat for one minute

  9. Record the patient’s pulse on their chart

How to Measure Respiratory Rate:

  1. Tell the patient you are taking their pulse one more time but instead record their respiration count. You always want them to think you are taking their pulse instead of respiration, to ensure their breathing is normal

  2. While holding their wrist, count their respiration from chest (rise and fall) counting the first chest fall as breath one

  3. Count respiration for one minute

  4. Record respiration on the patient’s chart

  5. Wash your hands

  6. Place call light in patient’s hand and pull the curtains closed

  7. Ask how the patient would like the head of the bed.


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