How to check the arterial pulse
Christopher Nicholson Lead clinician, Cardiac and Respiratory Service, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, Preston, England
This article aims to help healthcare professionals to check the arterial pulse. It focuses on the radial pulse, and also briefly considers the brachial and carotid pulses. The arterial pulse provides information about the patient’s condition and is therefore a vital sign. Checking the pulse is an essential clinical skill for healthcare professionals.
Palpating the pulse tells us the patient’s heart rate.
It also provides information on the regularity, volume and character of the pulse.
Clinical skills articles can help update your practice and ensure it remains evidence based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:
Your skill in manual pulse checking. Identify where you may need further supervised practice. For example, are you confident in finding radial, brachial and carotid sites?
Your knowledge of the normal characteristics of the pulse. Identify where you may need to extend your knowledge. For example, do you understand the normal range of rate, regularity, character and volume of the pulse?
Your knowledge of the abnormal characteristics of the pulse. Identify where you may need to extend your knowledge. For example, do you understand how different cardiac and non-cardiac diseases may affect the pulse?
Subscribers can upload their reflective accounts at:
Nursing Standard. 30, 10, 34-36. doi: 10.7748/ns.30.10.34.s45Correspondence
All articles are subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software.
Received: 14 November 2014
Accepted: 11 June 2015