Radial Pulse. Help!


I've got pulse issues.

Everybody else that I'm studying with has got this, but I just can't seem to get the hang of getting radial pulse. I just got how to hold the wrist correctly no matter which hand I'm using - so that my thumb isn't against them.

I feel so stupid.

I don't know what it is, but halfway into counting, I'll get distracted. I'll lose the pulse. I'll miscount. My nose'll start itching. I glance at my watch, and I skip a beat. Whatever.

I'm decent at this when it's 15 seconds times 4. Sort of. But...we're learning to count for a full minute first, and God help me, I can't keep my mind clear.

I can handle the ack, the ew, the gross, the ill, the sick. This is what I want to do, so I'm pulling my hair out that I can't even do the first thing you learn after handwashing. I've heard it over and over again. Practice. Practice practice practice. NOBODY I know has had to practice for this long and still not get it.


876 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

You know what, it's ok. It took me a while to get the pulse down too. I think it's because I've never worked in the medical field before and it's different to have to tune into your own body so that you can tune into someone else's. Now I can find the pulse so easily, but there really wasn't any great thing I could do to learn how. I just took tons of pulses. I would practice finding my own pulse all the time - while I was driving, while at work, etc. I practiced finding my husband's pulse so many times I'm sure he was extremely happy when I finally left him alone. My co-workers now know their pulse rates by heart. Just grab anybody and everybody you can and, like you said, practice at it. If you lose count, start over until you can make yourself concentrate on it for the full minute. Just keep trying, you will get it. :)

Daytonite, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 14,603 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, telemetry, IV therapy, mgmt. Has 40 years experience.

To feel pulses a vein has to be compressed against a hard surface--a bone. So, you need to practice on getting the right hold so the radial artery is trapped between your fingers and the radial bone.

Guess you were never in band or played an instrument. You keep time to music by tapping your toes. That is one way you can keep count of a pulse. I sometimes count on my fingers. One finger represents a count of ten and I just press the finger ever so tightly down on a surface it is resting on. Only I know I'm doing that. There! Now you know! I'm a secret finger counter!


74 Posts

Specializes in L/D.

I have to look away and stare at a spot on the wall when I am taking a pulse. I look at my watch to get the starting time but if I continue to look at my watch I start counting the seconds instead of the pulse. So get a start time, and then look away at a blank space on the wall and concentrate on the pulse beating under your fingers. Good luck.

WDWpixieRN, RN

2,237 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg <1; Epic Certified <1.

I can usually find the radial pulse pretty quickly (but darned those pedal pulses are tricky!), but sometimes have a hard time keeping a hold on the radial once I start counting....or it feels like thump, thump, nothing, nothing, thump, thump,thump, thump, thump, thump, nothing, thump, thump,thump, thump, nothing, nothing, etc....is THAT normal, too?!?!

Is that indicative of what the heart's actually doing or my not holding on correctly?!?! Thx-


13 Posts

I've done that. Part of my problem is that I know the seven or eight girls I practice with all have regular heart rates. There's a definite pattern to all of them. I think I've just memorized the pattern and am counting that, even when I don't hear the heart for a beat or two. If I just count what I hear, it always comes off about 10 beats off. Ack, I'm terrible.

I wouldn't be so terribly worried, but there's a deadline coming up where I'll HAVE to get within 4 beats of my instructor's count, or I won't be able to move on. I'm terrible, terrible, terrible with deadlines.

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