Vital Signs Tip

Hey, this is Sheri with ATL Clinical Workshop and a student asked me if I would give one good tip for vital signs. Now, most of us are in the medical field, we’ve been doing vital signs and then we pass the buck and the techs now do our vital signs for us, so maybe we get a little rusty or maybe we kind of cut corners a little bit.

For this test you got to go old school, you got to know how to do it the right way, no short cuts for this test. One of the biggest things, actually there’s a couple, because I got to go off on my tangent on this. Blood pressure is my biggest pet peeve. You now have to do manual blood pressures for all of your patients when Simon says, when you’re assigned but we forget how, because why? We got those rolling digital blood pressures now.

I want you to understand, there are little cheats on the blood pressure cuff that say ‘artery’; there’s usually a circle or an arrow that says ‘artery’. How do you know to line this up if you don’t palpate the artery?

So number one thing is, my pet peeve, is you don’t know the correct landmark of the artery. All I do when I’m teaching a class is I’ll tell the student, “Stick your arm out.” And I’ll say, “Point to the artery where you’re going to put your cuff.” It’s inside the arm, it’s on the inner aspect of the arm. I see most students going to the middle, to the antecube; that’s wrong.

If I were an examiner and you walked up to a patient and you palpated in the wrong location, you give me no indication you have any clue how to take a blood pressure. Why? You need to go back and study your arteries, it’s the inner aspect of the arm and then use the dummy instructions for your benefit.

It says ‘artery’, that means that this arrow is lined up with that very artery, it’s not lined up in the center, it’s not turned on the backside. That’s the first indication that lets me know you have no clue what’s going on. You go up and you palpate and you put it on wrong. You don’t give me any indication that you are going to do it correctly.

The next thing that I see that students have a problem with is you’re pumping up the blood pressure cuff and all of a sudden you let it go and you hear a sound and then all of a sudden you stop and you pump it up higher. You can’t do that, you have to let the blood drain back in the arm.

So if you hear a beat and you’re like, “Oh, I need to go higher,” that’s okay, you can go higher; but first, let the air out of the cuff. Let the blood fill up back in the arm, you’re going to turn the arm blue, you’re cutting off circulation. Let the blood flow, wait a minute and then do it again. It’s two simple things that make you look like an idiot if you don’t fix this problem now while you’re studying.

So there’s my pet peeve and tip on blood pressure. For more information, check out our website at

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