Checking vitals on a stranger to see if they are ok

  1. 13
    Have you ever checked vital signs of a stranger (with their permission) while away from work? For example, you are walking down the street and you see someone that looks sick - do you check for vitals? Or, do you keep going?

    Share your story and tell us what happened.



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    Last edit by brian on Oct 24, '12
    NF_eyenurse, WhereIsMyCallBell, kythe, and 10 others like this.
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  4. 12 Comments so far...

  5. 4
    I've never approached "someone that looks sick", I feel that would be intrusive and I wouldn't want someone to do that to me. If someone asked me to I would. If they look like they need an ambulance I would approach and see what I could do to help. I've checked vitals in an emergency situation of course- there were two young adults hit by a car that drove off outside of my apartment and I heard it happen.
    jtmarcy12, noahsmama, cienurse, and 1 other like this.
  6. 3
    I agree with FreethinkloveRN. I would never approach someone simply because they appeared sick, unless they looked so sick I thought they might be about to pass out. And in that case, my first step wouldn't be to try to take their vitals, it would be to ask them if they needed assistance, and maybe help them to sit down somewhere and then call 911. In fact, calling 911 would always be my first step if I saw someone who appeared to be in distress. Since I don't generally carry a blood pressure cuff with me and have no idea how to estimate a BP by palpation, nor do I generally carry a thermometer in my back pocket, the only vitals I would be able to take would be heart rate and breathing rate. After calling 911, I might take their pulse or count their breathing rate, especially if they appeared to be having heart or respiratory issues.

    I once called 911 because I was having heart palpations. I counted my own pulse at 240 bpm (!). I shared this info with the 911 operator, but she told me she had no idea what that meant. The paramedics didn't seem to believe me until they checked for themselves (which I guess is appropriate, come to think of it).
    jtmarcy12, VivaLasViejas, and Joe V like this.
  7. 0
    If you see someone who looks ill and/or in distress, don't you owe it to the human race to ask them if they are OK? Need of assistance, whether or not you are a nurse? However, once you whip out the stethescope you have entered a binding contract as a professional and are indeed obligated, so be careful of acting above your qualifications. It can be a fine line between good Samaritan and legal responsibility.
  8. 1
    I've gone over to people in public who pass out or get dizzy and ask if I could help, so far help has been refused.
    Joe V likes this.
  9. 6
    I recently fainted while on a nature walk with a group, and a nearby med student checked my pulse and asked me basic questions to assess my orientation before letting me stand up again. Someone else gave me a couple of water bottles, one to drink and one to cool off my face and neck. Someone else drove me home in case I was still dizzy and lightheaded. But beyond basic interventions like that, I don't see what else would be appropriate in a non-life threatening situation. If you really believe the person needs more than just some friendly assistance, you probably should be calling them an ambulance.

    Maybe the person who "looks sick" is struggling with a chronic illness but knows how to handle their symptoms. Or maybe they are having an acute illness but they've already been to the doctor and don't need interference from strangers. You never know what a person's background is, but it also isn't necessarily just anyone's business.
    BonnieSc, jtmarcy12, brian, and 3 others like this.
  10. 4
    Twice... I checked for a pulse, if that counts. It was a yes or no type of inquisition, not a time to count.

    That is the only circumstance where I see it would be relevant...not like I carry anything to treat with if I were to find something abnormal. A good nurse call tell someone is in distress without vitals and the appropriate response would be to offer help, assure they are safe from further harm and call 911. If they don't look distressed, I am not offering a vital check.
    jtmarcy12, nrsang97, Joe V, and 1 other like this.
  11. 1
    The only reason I would intervene for any reason is if someone were clearly having trouble with ABCs. And, in that case, I wouldn't even ask them, I'd call 911.

    I have absolutely no desire to meddle with the health concerns of people who are not my patients.
    jtmarcy12 likes this.
  12. 0
    I think I would assist someone who would look sick or ill. Although if they said that they do not need any help then I would respect their preference.
  13. 0
    Needless to say we all have done this at point or another... Aloha~


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