Taking a patient’s blood pressure is a common aspect of any doctor’s office visit. When nurses take their patient’s blood pressure reading, they are ensuring that their health is up to standards to receive medical treatments. Nurses have manual, electric, and digital blood pressure machines that can be used to take the patient’s blood pressure. It takes some practice to learn how to take blood pressure manually, but this method is the most accurate of all options. Therefore, this is an important nursing clinical skill that all aspiring nurses should learn how to do properly.
How to Take Blood Pressure Manually
The traditional method of taking blood pressure manually using the sphygmomanometer is used less often than the digital and electric methods. Many doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics are replacing the manual blood pressure machines with technologically perceptive methods. Nurses use the manual method of taking blood pressure when they want to receive an accurate reading. Additionally, electric and digital methods can malfunction at times, causing nurses to rely on the most dependable method of taking blood pressure. It takes a certain level of skill for a nurse to take blood pressure manually so nurses must practice the method as much as possible.
Steps on How to Take a Blood Pressure Manually
- Ask the patients to sit up straight with their arms stretched forward. The patient’s palms should face up, and the arm in which their blood pressure will be taken should be slightly bent. The upper arm should be level with the heart, and the feet should remain flat on the floor during the process. Some patients may wish to rest their arm on a table or armrest for added support while having their blood pressure taken.
- Make sure that the patient is relaxed and calm before proceeding.
- Turn the sphygmomanometer’s air release valve clockwise to close. Ask the patient to roll up his or her sleeve before slipping on the blood pressure cuff. Make sure that the cuff is snug around the patient’s upper arm. The bottom ½ inch of the cuff should rest directly above the patient’s elbow. Straighten the rubber tubing connected to the cuff before moving proceeding.
- Find the patient’s pulse by using the middle and index finger to press against the inside crease of the elbow of the patient’s arm. Place the stethoscope’s earpieces in the ears and the bell on the skin directly below the blood pressure cuff. Place the chest piece over the brachial artery in order to get a strong pulse reading.
- Pump the rubber bulb until no sounds continue to come through the stethoscope. Continue to inflate the cuff by squeezing and releasing the bulb in a rapid motion. Blood flow in the arteries will stop when the cuff is inflated accurately. Inflate the cuff until it reaches 180 millimeter when the patient’s normal blood pressure is unknown but make sure that the cuff is not inflated more than needed. The reading for patients with known previous readings should be 30 to 40 millimeters above the reading of their normal systolic pressure.
- Release the air valve by turning it counterclockwise. The pressure in the cuff will release at a rate of 2 to 3 millimeters per second.
- The patient’s systolic and diastolic pressure will be taken. The sounds heard through the earpieces will resemble a slight tapping sound. Monitor the reading on the gauge for the patient’s systolic pressure. This is the first number needed for a blood pressure reading. Next, wait until the faint sound in the earpiece stops. Check the gauge to get the patients diastolic blood pressure reading.
- Take the patient’s blood pressure once or twice again for accuracy. It is necessary to wait at least 5 minutes between readings so that the flow of blood is restored in the arm.
- Release the remaining air from the blood pressure cuff when finished.
Video on How to Take a Blood Pressure Manually
Tips on How to Take a Blood Pressure
- Make sure to use the correct size cuff to take the patient’s blood pressure. Use the widest part of the patients arm as a guide. The cuff should be at least this wide.
- Patients should not exercise, eat, or smoke at least 30 minutes before having their blood pressure taken.
- Measure the blood pressure in the same arm if taking readings daily.
- Measure the blood pressure at least twice to ensure accuracy of the reading.
How to Interpret a Blood Pressure Reading
Interpret the blood pressure reading by placing the systolic number over the diastolic number. For example, if the systolic number is 120 and the diastolic number is 80, the reading will be 120/80. 120/80 is consider an optimal blood pressure reading while 130/85 is normal blood pressure. A doctor should closely monitor any systolic reading between 130 and 139 or diastolic reading between 85 and 89.
Nurses have many responsibilities to their patients. Taking the blood pressure of patients is one of the most important things that nurses can do for their patients because monitoring blood pressure readings can save the lives of patients.