Measure and Record Respirations

Care Plan:  Patient will be lying in bed for skill.  Count the patient’s respirations for one full minute and record your readings. 

Testing Tip: Respirations and Alcohol Pads.  Click here to learn more!



Do I have to count for one full minute?

Yes, for the exam the respirations must be counted for one full minute. Although in many clinical settings healthcare workers may be permitted to count for 15 seconds and multiply by four, or 30 seconds and multiply by two, this is not permitted on the exam.

Do I have to record the respirations on the documentation sheet?

All respiration readings must be documented on the documentation sheet provided by the evaluator.  The student should document the results after performing their closing and washing their hands.

Why do I have to wash my hands before documenting the reading?

Anything that goes home with you at the end of the day (like your keys, pens, cell phone or lunch box) can be contaminated by your unclean hands.  Those items can then spread pathogens (disease causing organisms) into your home.  You should make it a habit to only touch these items with clean hands.

Why can’t I tell the patient that I am counting their respirations?

When a patient is aware that someone is counting their breathing, they will unconsciously alter their breathing patterns, making your reading inaccurate. To obtain an accurate respiration rate, the patient should not be aware of what the CNA is measuring.

Why do I have to hold the patient’s wrist for this skill?

Standing over a patient, not touching them and staring at their chest will make the patient uncomfortable.  They may feel the need to start talking to alleviate their anxiety, which can result in an inaccurate measurement of respirations.  It is best to hold their wrist, making them believe you are counting their pulse, to obtain an accurate measurement.

Who will be doing the timing for this skill?

The testing candidate (you) is responsible for notifying the evaluator when they are starting to count the respirations and when they have stopped counting. This ensures that both the CNA candidate and the evaluator are counting for the same amount of time.

Do I have to close the privacy curtain for this skill?

The privacy curtain should be closed for every skill performed on the patient, except feeding. This is an important component of each skill and will be graded during the exam.

Can I use an alcohol pad on the patient's abdomen for easier visibility?

Yes, this technique may be used on the state exam. However, this method is generally used by new students uncomfortable with performing this skill. With adequate practice, you should be able to obtain respiration measurements without this aid.