CNA Skill: Counting and Recording Patients Respiration


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When working as a nursing aide, you will also need to measure a patient’s respiration.  Do not tell the patient that you are measuring respiration so that they do not alter their breathing.  You can usually take a patient’s respirations after counting their pulse rate.  Wash your hands before working with a patient.  Respirations are a measure of the amount of times a patient is breathing each minute.

Each times that a person’s chest rises and falls, you will note that they have taken one breath.  You can begin counting the number of times a patient breathes while timing one minute.  As you watch the patient breath, you should also pay attention to how deeply they are breathing.  Pay careful attention if you notice they are using additional muscles (than usual) to take a breath.  You will write down their respiration rate in their chart.

An individual should take between 12 and 18 breaths each minute.  Of course, there are various things than can have an impact on a patient’s respiration.  Some patients will breathe at a slower rate if they are resting.  The same is true for individuals who are laying on their back while you are counting respiration.

If a patient is using narcotics, their respirations might be a little bit slower.  Narcotics can slow down the respiration rate.

Sometimes an increase in respirations will be noted.  This often occurs if a patient is feeling very stressed.  An increase in respiration is not uncommon in a patient who has recently had increased activity.  The same is true of patients who are experiencing pain.  If a patient has an infection or an increased body temperature, they are likely to have a faster respiration rate as well.

There are other factors that can influence respirations.  Some examples include patients who have suffered from a heart attack, patients who have actually had an overload of fluids and , of course, patients who are experiencing some type of respiratory distress.  You should report any concerns pertaining to respiration to the proper superior.

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