This is a guest post by Michael Fraley. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
Taking an accurate blood pressure was one of the first things we all learned in EMT or First Responder class, but it can be very easy to get in the habit of using poor technique when wrapping the cuff around a patient’s arm. Here are a few quick reminders to improve your blood pressure assessment skills.
• Expose the patient’s arm. Bulky clothing significantly reduces the accuracy of the cuff.
• Be careful rolling the sleeve up. If it is too tight it may inadvertently restrict blood flow to the arm.
• Use the right size cuff. A cuff that is too large will give readings that are lower than reality. A cuff that is too small will give readings that are higher than the actual blood pressure.
• Use the bell on your stethoscope if it has one. The bell picks up low tones better than the diaphragm.
• Make sure your manual BP cuff is calibrated. After time, use and abuse they can get “out of zero.” Check the instructions for your model for calibration instructions, but most have a little box or circle at the bottom of the sphygmomanometer gauge where the needle should rest when the cuff is completely deflated.
• Document the patient’s position when you took their BP and the arm on which you took it.
Thanks Michael. I have ten more blood pressure assessment tips in an EMS1.com Everyday EMS Tips column.
You can also review Patient Assessment in an EPS 411.com two part lesson on Patient Assessment that features photography and graphic design by Kyle David Bates at RapidCE.com.
Michael is a paramedic, regional EMS coordinator, and long-time EMS educator. He has written many CE lessons for EPS411.com that are available to RapidCE.com and CentreLearn students. He also is the coordinator for the North Central Regional Trauma Advisory Council of Wisconsin and hosts the NCRTAC Live podcast. Listen to past episodes of NCRTAC Live!
This is the 12th post in the Everyday EMS Tips 31 Days of Continuing Education series.