Health care professionals are expected to conduct a variety of tests and measures to effectively evaluate a patient's health condition. Assessing a patient’s vital signs is often the first assessment that a clinician will perform. Vital signs are measurements of the body’s most basic functions. Traditionally, vital signs have been described as body temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure because through these basic functions a clinician can determine signs of human life or death. Pain is often considered “the fifth vital sign," and is covered in the Somatosensory Examination and Evaluation Study Guide. These values alone, or in combination, will also help a clinician understand the relative risk to a patient’s health and wellness by determining if the values deviate from known normative data and by what degree. The values can be useful in establishing the presence of disease, monitoring chronic disease states, and determining a differential diagnosis. These values are dynamic and can change in an instant. It is essential that clinicians demonstrate proper techniques and understand other variables that can affect these values to ensure accuracy (i.e., validity) of the vital signs that have been measured.
Vital signs have been monitored since the earliest days of medicine. Recently, clinicians have widened the scope of vital signs to include temperature, pulse, respirations, blood pressure, height, and weight. Some settings will also include blood oxygen saturation rate. The following tutorial will cover each component of the vital signs in detail.
Indications for Vital Signs Examination
The health care professional should always remember:
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