Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taking blood pressure

One of the assessments midwives perform every day, numerous times a day is blood pressure recording. It is one of those things that we quickly gain expertise with and feel that we know very well how it should be done. Since I started teaching undergraduate midwifery students I have become aware of many aspects of my practice that are not necessarily best practice.

I gained my first midwifery qualification in 1975 at Cresswell Maternity in Dumfries. It was a separate hospital in those days but is now part of the general hospital, a common trend nowadays. I learned to take blood pressures much earlier when I was a student nurse at the old D&GRI, not this new one which opened in 1975. The claim to fame of the D&GRI is the first use of anaesthetic ether in 1846 for surgical operations.Suffice to say I had many years to get sloppy in my practice, feeling I knew very well how to take a blood pressure, before I started teaching students and had to look at this again.

I try now to take blood pressures according to best practice however I do admit to not always doing this, old habits die hard. When I was looking for learning resources for my students I came across the British Hypertensive Society. They explain the process of recording blood pressure and provide clear rationale for why it should be done this way. One of the resources on this web site is an interactive learning resource, excellent for anyone wanting to know how to take blood pressure properly or learning this skill for the first time. I recommend this highly to my students.

Here are some other learning resources related to blood pressure.
For those interested here are a couple of videos about the physiology of blood pressure and hypertension by John Campbell, a UK nursing lecturer.
Video one
And Video two

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