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CNA pulse reading question


Hopefully this is allowed. If it's not just remove it. :p I'm taking a CNA course at my college, and we're working on vital signs. We just learned how to take BP today. The thing is, I can feel my pulse through my fingertips. So when I try to take someone else's BP, I can never tell when their pulse goes away because I end up feeling my own pulse instead.

Does anyone else have this problem? I feel almost silly going to the professor with it. lol.


Has 3 years experience.

A few people in my CNA class had that same problem.

Use your middle three finger to palpate. Place the stethoscope where you feel the pulse and place the stethoscope in that spot. Honestly- most RNs probably don't even have to palpate but when you are just getting started with BP it's a good thing to do. Plus, I'm sure they'll want to see you doing that for your exam. Also... make sure you aren't holding the diaphragm with your thumb. You could be hearing your own pulse if you do that.

I hope that helps some! When in doubt though... go to the instructor about it. Maybe they can show you some tips that can help you. You need to make sure the readings you get are accurate.

Edited by jriccardi


Specializes in PICU, NICU, Pediatrics. Has 3 years experience.

In all reality this procedure is not necessary. Yes, there are potential complications from inflating the cuff too high but its not likely. The easiest way is to look at the baseline BP's or ask the pt what their usual readings are and inflate the cuff 15-20 mm hg exceeding the rate, if a pressure is immediately heard just go another 10 up. By inflating the cuff only 10- 15 mm hg above baseline will not harm the pt.

Simba&NalasMom, LPN

Has 14 years experience.

Yep that happens to me all the time. It might help if you flatten your fingers (use your index, middle, and ring) so that you are not using the very tips where your own pulse is the strongest. Honestly, in time you will get to the point where you will get so good at listening with your steth (provided you have a good one...it's worth it to invest in a good Littmann as opposed to using the junk most facilities provide) that you will no longer need to palpate.

It's not a silly question at all; I see it as an individual who wants to give the best care he/she can and is simply being conscientious. THANK YOU in advance for all the hard work you will be giving your patients and nurses! :redpinkhe

Thanks for the replies! I was busy with class and kind of forgot to check back on it again. :uhoh3: I'm getting better at reading the pulse. I'm going to use the advice of not using the tips of my fingers, since that's where I felt my own pulse. I've been practicing finding the brachial pulse on myself and on my family, but it's still a ways until I'm able to pick it up easily.