Paramedics Course – Assessing the Pulse

Assessing the Pulse

Micro-lecture by the Australian Paramedical College


In today’s micro-lecture, Australian Paramedical College Hon. Snr. Lecturer Sam Willis talks about assessing the pulse which is something you’ll assess on every patient that you treat in paramedic practice.

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Assessing the Pulse

In today’s micro lecture, we’re going to talk about assessing the pulse. Now, the pulse is something that you will assess on every single patient that you treat. You will not only assess it when you first meet them, within the first few minutes, but you will also continually reassess it throughout your journey. That’s what will make you safe as a paramedic, to monitor any changes.

Now, as you can see on this image, there are many different pulse sites. However, there are some key pulse sites that we tend to go to as a paramedic but that doesn’t mean that we can’t go elsewhere.

What is a pulse? When the heart contracts, it sends a rhythmic contraction down the arterial circulation and allows the … When you’re assessing the pulse, that’s what you’re feeling. You’re feeling the contraction of the ventricles, the left ventricle, pushing the rhythmic contraction down the arterial systematic circulation. Now, anywhere where an artery crosses a bone, you’re going to be able to feel a pulse. These are the key areas here.

Now, when you first meet a patient, and you’re doing your primary survey, by far, the most common pulse site is the radial artery. Now, the radial artery, if you follow the thumb down and push gently in there, that’s the radial artery. Now, sometimes you have to push hard. Other times, you have to push week. If you push too hard, you can squash the radial artery and you don’t feel it. Other times, if you don’t push hard enough, you’ll never been able to feel it. It is really a clinical thing to be able to feel radial pulses on everybody. However, if the patient is looking pale and clammy and unwell and there’s not radial artery, then you would feel somewhere else. Usually, the paramedics go for the carotid artery, but you can go for the brachial artery as well. It really is just a clinical judgment.

When you’re assessing the pulse, you’re assessing the rate, in other words, how fast it is. You’re assessing the regularity. Is it regular of irregular? Is it regularly irregular or irregularly irregular? You’re also assessing the strength. Is it weak or is it strong? This is just a couple of instant tips.

Now, whenever you’re feeling for circulation, you’re not just assess the pulse, you can also assess what’s called the capillary refill time. Now, we do our capillary refill time either on the thumb, on the finger, on the head and what we do is we see how the nail bed is nice and red. When you press it goes white, and you press it for five seconds. One, two, three, four, five and then, you let go, and it should go red or pink again within two seconds.

Okay, guys. Well, that’s the snapshot of assessing the radial pulse and the circulation. My name’s Sam Willis and I hope you’ve found this micro lecture useful.

For more information about courses and becoming a Medic / Paramedic or any other professional in the pre-hospital emergency health care sector Contact The Australian Paramedical College today:


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