CNA Training Skills: Recording a Radial Pulse

cna trainingCNA Training

During CNA training, one of the most basic skills you will learn is how to take a patient’s radial pulse. While it may seem simple and only require 30 seconds to a minute of your time, it is a very important task that can help you and the other medical staff determine if any changes have occurred in a patient’s condition and provide you with the time you need to give your patient life-saving care.


The radial pulse measure a patient’s heart rhythm, and a chance in this rhythm can often indicate serious health problems.


While you will learn how to properly count and record a radial pulse in CNA training, today we will provide you with a brief overview of how to perform this skill after CNA training and give you a few hints and tips to ensure you are doing everything you possibly can to provide the right kind of care for your patients.

Taking a Radial Pulse After CNA Training


  • As you enter the patient’s room after CNA training, wash your hands thoroughly. This will prevent you from spreading infections from patient to patient. Then, greet the patient and explain to them exactly what you will be doing. Most of the time, the radial pulse is taken at the same time other vital signs, like blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate, however it may also be required at other times as well. Answer any questions the patient might have before you begin.


  • Instruct your patient to extend his arm out and take his hand. Then, slide your middle and index finger along the patient’s thumb to his wrist. Here you can feel the radial artery. It doesn’t matter which arm you take the pulse from, as long as both you and the patient are comfortable.


  • As you will learn during CNA training, you will then need to apply pressure with the tips of your fingers to the patient’s wrist until you feel his pulse. You may need to adjust your fingers slightly along the risk if you find you are not in the right location. Once you have found the pulse, check your watch and count beats for thirty seconds. You can then multiply this number by two to determine the patient’s heart beats per minute.


  • As you will learn in CNA training, irregular heartbeats can be an indication of a serious problem, like a stroke. If the patient’s heart rhythm is too fast or too slow, count the beats for a full minute instead of thirty seconds.


  • Once you have determined the patient’s radial pulse, record it in his chart, make sure the patient is comfortable, and then wash your hands thoroughly again.



What to do if Your Patient’s Pulse is Irregular After CNA Training


If you notice any problems with your patient’s pulse after CNA training, make sure to record it and report it immediately to your charge nurse. Some illnesses that can disturb a patient’s heart rhythm can develop quickly and you may only have a short period of time where you can provide the life-saving techniques you learned in CNA training.

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