What Are the Vital Signs Used by Nurses to Assess Patients?


Quick Answer

Vital signs used by nurses and other health care professionals to access patients include respiratory rate, body temperature, pulse and blood pressure, according to Cleveland Clinic. Vital signs are used to measure the basic functions of the body, give clues to diseases, access overall health, and show progress toward improved health.

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Vital signs vary depending on a person's age, weight, gender and health, states Cleveland Clinic. While the average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it can range from 97.8 to 99.1 degrees F in a healthy person. Body temperature that falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit is hypothermia. Many factors affect body temperature, including dehydration, stress, exercise, one's environment and thyroid disorders. Normal blood pressure for an adult at rest is a reading less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury, although factors such as cold, a full stomach, salt intake and medications can affect readings.

Typical respiratory rate for adults is 12 to 20 breaths per minute, explains Cleveland Clinic. A person with a respiratory rate under 12 or over 25 breaths per minute while resting is considered abnormal. Conditions such as congestive heart failure, lung disease and drug overdose affect respiratory rate. A normal pulse rate varies from person to person, although 60 to 80 beats per minute is normal for most healthy adults. A lower pulse rate can signal a heart condition, but is normal for athletes.

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