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How to Monitor for the Respiratory Rate

Updated on February 4, 2014

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Respiratory Rate

Monitoring a client’s respiration rate is essential to facilitate the evaluation of medical treatment and nursing interventions.

Equipment: A digital watch or watch with a second hand, together with an appropriate chart for recording, is required. The procedures and rationales are given below.

Procedure & Rationales:

  1. Explain procedure and ensure adequate understanding. Promote client co-operation and obtain informed consent, though this step is often omitted where there is a danger that the person may voluntarily control their breathing and thus alter the rate.
  2. Count respirations as chest rises and falls for a period of one minute. To monitor rate and compare to normal values: New-born: 30–80 rpm Early childhood: 20–40 rpm Late childhood: 15–25 rpm Adult male: 14–18 rpm Adult female: 16–20 rpm.
  3. Observe depth of respirations. To monitor depth and compare to normal breathes -  usually shallow and effortless.
  4. Listen for breath sounds, e.g. stridor, wheeze. To monitor sounds and compare to normal breathes - usually almost inaudible.
  5. Observe pattern of breathing and use of accessory muscles. To monitor pattern and compare to normal breathes - usually effortless.
  6. Observe color of skin/mucous membranes, e.g. pallor, cyanosis. To ensure that adequate oxygen is getting to the tissues.
  7. Record rate on appropriate chart and report any abnormalities. Legal requirement to maintain documentation and safeguard client through good communications.


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