Guide to Nursing Observations

Health Play Department
Bergholt Ward, Ipswich Hospital
Tel: 01473 702 186 (Ext:1186)

Nursing observations (obs) are routine checks to monitor your body while you recover during your admission.

The basic checks include:

  • body temperature
  • respiratory rate
  • heart rate
  • pain score
  • level of alertness.

Your body temperature is taken using a thermometer probe.  This probe is placed either in your armpit or under your tongue, and your body temperature is displayed on the screen. We have some thermometers that take your temperature from inside your ear.

Your heart rate (pulse) is taken with a ‘peg’ like sensor, which has a red light on the inside. This ‘peg’ will gently sit over your finger or toe and count your heartbeat. This device will also measure your blood oxygen levels.

Your respiratory rate (how fast you are breathing) is visually counted by the nurse, with the help of a timer. They will watch your chest rise and fall with each breath, counting how many you take in a minute.

The choice of pain score tool will be assessed on your age and level of understanding.  If you are using numbers, 0 will be no pain at all, and 10 would be the worst pain ever experienced.

The nurse will also monitor your level of alertness. They will check based on how alert you are. For example, whether you are asleep, awake, drowsy or active in the playroom/school room.


Additional observations

Blood pressure – This tells us how hard your heart is pumping your blood around your body. A cuff wraps around your arm with Velcro and is gently inflated. It will squeeze your arm a little, and feel tight, but then slowly deflate.

Eye pupil size – sometimes the doctors like to check the size of each pupil and how it reacts to light.

Circulation – This is checked to see if you have a good blood supply to parts of your body. This is done by looking at any skin discolouration, temperature difference and ‘capillary refill’.

Blood sugar (BM) levels – this is done with a quick pin prick test, where a drop of blood is placed into a portable device and a reading of your blood sugar levels is displayed within a few seconds.

For more information

Speak to your nurse or play specialist