The Importance of Charting Parameters (Vital Signs)

Updated: May 20

As you probably already realised, a lot of nurses and doctors seem to be obsessed with charting parameters, or as more commonly known the Vital Signs. But there are so many other important things in a nurse’s day, right? Wrong!


If there is one thing you should do during your day is to check and adequately chart your patient’s parameters. Because the readings will tell you so much about your patient’s general condition. It’s so important that the Royal College of Physicians created a National Early Warning Score, that highlights any deterioration in the patient’s clinical condition.


But before I say anything else, let’s break it down and understand what we’re really looking at when charting parameters


1. The Respiration Rate

The respiratory rate is the number of breaths per minute, the average healthy adult takes 12-20 breaths per minute.  Any less is known as bradypnea and can be a sign of heart problems.  Any more is known as tachypnoea and can be a sign of anxiety, COPD, or sepsis.


2. The Oxygen Saturation

This is the level of oxygen within the blood. A healthy adult should have a saturation level of over 96%. Low levels of oxygen can be an indication of an obstructed airway or lung-related conditions, such as COPD or Pneumonia. 


3. The Temperature

The average body temperature is between 36.1 to 38.0. A lower temperature suggests hypothermia, often caused by the exposure of cold environments. On the other hand, a temperature higher than 38.1 indicates fever, which is usually caused by an infection.


4. The Blood Pressure

Adults should aim to have their blood pressure around is 120/70 (systolic/diastolic). Hypertension (high blood pressure) is often caused by smoking, excessive weight or high cholesterol. But it can also be an indication of stress on the body and fluid overload. In contrary, hypotension (low blood pressure) may be a result of blood loss, dehydration or septicaemia.


5. The Pulse Rate

At rest, an average pulse rate for an adult ranges between 51-90 beats per minute. Individuals with a pulse of fewer than 51 beats per minute are considered to have bradycardia, often caused by heart issues or a chemical imbalance in the body. A pulse higher than 90 beats per minute at rest is known as tachycardia. This can be a result of a particular medication, consumption of alcohol or recreational drugs, as well as heart conditions.


6. The level of consciousness

The level of consciousness is broken down into 4 categories:

  1. Alert

  2. Verbal

  3. Pain

  4. Unresponsive

The idea behind charting parameters is to have a precise evaluation of your patient’s general condition at that moment. So do pay attention to the values and alert a senior nurse or doctor regarding abnormal values.


How’s your nursing experience going so far? Are you as obsessed with charting parameters as the other nurses are? 


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