Many factors can interfere with obtaining an accurate blood pressure. The most common mistakes that lead to inaccurate blood pressures are a result of improper technique, including: not supporting the patient’s arm, using the wrong sized cuff, positioning the cuff too low on the patient’s arm, improper positioning of the cuff’s artery marker, and attempting to measure blood pressure through clothing.
Bathing is an important part of a patient’s health routine. A partial bed bath focuses on bathing sensitive areas that cause discomfort if not cleansed frequently, such as the face, hands, axillae, back, and perineum. Though patients receiving a bed bath are typically confined to the bed, some are able to wash themselves and should be encouraged to do so to promote independence.
Perineal care should be performed during a bath, after using the bedpan, and/or after incontinence. Proper technique is important for maintaining hygiene, preventing infection, and avoiding skin breakdown. Because of the close proximity between a woman’s urethra, vagina, and anus, it is essential to only wipe in a front to back motion. Wiping in the opposite direction is associated with a greater risk for developing a urinary tract infection.
Nail care of both the feet and the hands should be performed as part of the patient’s daily hygiene routine. The status of the patient’s nails can reflect their overall health. Nail issues can also lead to infection that can spread systemically (ex, ingrown nails or fungus). You should never clip a patient’s nails with nail clippers, and always review your institution’s policy about what nail care is allowed.
Oral hygiene is about more than good breath. For patients, it can increase their sense of well-being and normalcy, as well as help ensure that they can easily consume food.
Compared to other temperature measurement methods, the axillary measurement is considered the least reliable. An axillary temperature measurement typically reads 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit lower than an oral temperature reading . For this reason, it is recommended to use this method only when other methods are contraindicated or when taking an axillary temperature is the safest method for the patient.
A rectal temperature provides the most accurate core body temperature reading compared to other non-invasive methods. This makes a rectal temperature desirable; however, this procedure comes with more patient discomfort and more safety risks (bowel perforation, mucosal damage, and/or vagus nerve stimulation) than the other temperature measurement methods.
A tympanic membrane thermometer uses an infrared sensor to measure the temperature of the tympanic membrane (ear drum). This type of thermometer is considered an accurate and reliable predictor of a patient’s core temperature because the tympanic membrane’s blood supply is sourced from the carotid artery, which is the same artery that carries blood to the hypothalamus in the brain.
The radial artery, located in the wrist, is easy to feel and an efficient location to measure heart rate. Changes to the rhythm or strength of the radial pulse can indicate heart disease, damage to the arm, or body fluid status. It is important to remember to check the radial pulse on both sides as differences between left and right can indicate injury or disease processes.
The apical pulse rate is the most accurate non-invasive measurement of heart rate because it is measured directly over the apex of the heart. Apical pulse is preferred in cases when the radial pulse is difficult to palpate, when the pulse is irregular, greater than 100 beats per minute, or less than 60 beats per minute when measured by other means (electronic, radial, etc.).