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Count and Record Respirations CNA Skill

As a CNA, one of the responsibilities you will have is measuring and recording a patient’s respirations. This is an important skill for ensuring the health of your patients, as respiration issues can help identify more serious health issues. 

To learn all of the necessary steps for performing a respiration count, please watch this video demonstration. 

Counting and recording respirations CNA skill procedure

A normal respiration rate for an adult should fall between 12 and 18 breaths per minute. There are a number of reasons for faster or slower respiration rates including stress, body positioning, medication, or underlying medical issues. Faster breathing rates can also be indicative of pain, stress, a fever, an infection, asthma, increased fluid levels, or an early warning sign for a heart attack. As a CNA you’ll want to become an expert at monitoring how a person breathes and taking respiration counts as it will help you indicate early signs for many critical health issues. 

The following checklist can help you master this CNA skill. You will need a 

  1. Perform the standard beginning tasks – knock before entering the patient’s room, greet the patient by name, introduce yourself, explain the task you are about to perform, close the privacy curtain, wash your hands and get your supplies.
  2. Position your hand on the patient’s wrist as if you were taking their pulse. Note: It can be helpful to place an alcohol pad on the patient’s abdomen to more easily see their breathing.
  3. Determine whether you will count for 30 or 60 seconds.
  4. If you use a 30 second count, multiply the number of breaths by two. Count for one minute if irregular. The test taker must say when to start and end the count. 
  5. Recorded the respiratory rate within + or – two respirations per minute of respiratory rate recorded by evaluator.
  6. Perform your standard completion tasks – ensure the patient has a clean environment, ask if they are comfortable, give the patient their call light, wash your hands, and document the results.

* Please be sure to consult the testing materials provided by the skills test provider in your state to ensure that these steps for how a CNA should count and record respirations are in compliance. The procedure in different states and from different test providers can vary slightly and greatly affect your score.