Inaccurate Vital Signs- no one cares


hello everyone,

i work at a hospital on the medical floor that has vital sign machines that do not work. they consistently give inaccurate readings. i would do the bp manually but finding a cuff and one that has all the parts would be a miracle. we have several other thermometers that are not on the vital sign carts, but those don't work either. they give the same reading for all the patients. i have tried to tell management and show them how the temp says i have a 102 fever and a spo2 of 88 which i clearly do not and they still don't do anything about it.

this is very much concerning me. vital signs are so important...why should have to be telling management that.:angryfire i am trying to find information that will back my case such as a journal/code from the ana or the joint commission that would back me up, but i am having trouble finding any. i want them to replace these machines.

do you have anything which i could take to management that could help back up my case?

thank you so much.

ktwlpn, LPN

3,844 Posts

Specializes in LTC,Hospice/palliative care,acute care. Has 35 years experience.

Let a couple of the docs know what is going on-you'll see how fast it's fixed....

Virgo_RN, BSN, RN

3,543 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, ED.

Why in the world would you need evidence that accurate vital signs are basic to safe patient care?!?!?

In addition to the great suggestion above, any piece of equipment that does not work properly needs to be tagged "out of order" and taken out of service.

UM Review RN, ASN, RN

7 Articles; 5,163 Posts

Specializes in Utilization Management.

I worked on a couple of units that would supply the unit and then all the new equipment would disappear or suddenly be found in pieces. Often we would have to share or piece together equipment.

I bought and kept a spare manual BP cuff and thermometer in my locker. The one thing I refused to buy on my own was a pulse ox. Too expensive. It made me so mad that I'd have to go off on a hunt for working equipment when I had a crashing patient. We had to share a 12-lead EKG with two other tele units and one bladder scanner was used for the entire 200-bed facility. Talk about annoying!

I agree with the person who said to get the docs involved -- but first you might notify your Unit Manager because I'm pretty sure that's who doles out the money for stuff like that. If nothing happens, tell the Director of Nursing or the Director of Medicine.

Aneroo, LPN

1 Article; 1,518 Posts

Specializes in Cath Lab, OR, CPHN/SN, ER.

If they continue to ignore your concerns, bring it up to risk management. If a patients medications are changed or their course of care is altered because of a false reading, that's a big issue. If it were an IV pump that were malfunctioning, it'd be taken out of commission. I'd do the same for faulty VS equipment.


561 Posts

Specializes in LTC/Rehab, Med Surg, Home Care.

We have had a similar issue. We have two tympanic thermometers, one consistantly reads high, as in 99-100, and the other between 96-97 degrees. Our house gertonologist believed the low readings were a reflection of wax build up to the ears, and asked us to ONLY use the oral thermometer. We told him that it reads very, very low, and he said no, it's ACCURATE. So we started reporting temps of 95. He yelled at us "Don't take it after they take a drink of water". Um, no, I didn't, they were asleep, mouth closed. OH!

Did it get tagged out? Nope, management told us that the oral thermometer, which is on our vitals machine is the ONLY one that gets regularly calibrated. Seriously, we were told that oral temps of 95 degrees were accurate and acceptable because it was calibrated. I know ppl. fluctuate, but that pretty much everyone is 95? I don't freakin' think so!

My personal wish list is for my own BP cuff, we hae a nice one at home for DH, but I don't want to take that into work. I already have my own stethescope and flashlight. It's insane that I should have to purchase my own equipment like this, but I guess that's what is needed.


630 Posts

I agree with others.... 1. Tell the doctors what is going on 2. Talk to Risk Management ....more important though, why are you going to work with a temp of 102, you should be at home! :wink2:


114 Posts

Specializes in LTC. Has 4 years experience.

I, too, carry my own manual BP cuff to work w/me. Especially after all sizes except the peds cuffs came up missing. The peds cuffs only work on like the 80lb old men!


11 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

I've always had my own equipment. BP cuff, stethescope, thermometer. I don't use the wrist bp monitors either. they are not always accurate. it helps keep the bs down to a minimum, especially when there is an emergency. I would definately report this to whomever and if that doesn't work, then work your way up the food chain to get it done. Good luck.


250 Posts

I was under impression such devices were to be tested and calibrated every so often with this being kept on record in some form of documentation


117 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac step down unit.

Half of our rooms have broken BP cuffs on the wall, or they are missing altogether. The scouts will all give different readings, and the thermometers do NOT work on them- everyone has a temp of 97.2. The only things that do work perfectly are the pulse ox machines because they are brand new and chain locked to the scouts so they don't disappear. It is very frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone in to do vitals on an isolation patient only to find there is not a cuff on the wall. ARGH. My stethoscope and cuff are always in my locker.

The kicker here is that the hospital system I work at is rated "One of the top 5 places in the state to work!"

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

i would bring concerns (in writing) directly to the nm or adon, w/ a cc to risk mgmt, qa, or who you deem appropriate.

professional nurses being forced to use inaccurate/substandard equip?

it 'should' be unheard of.


This topic is now closed to further replies.