Monitoring respiratory rate

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


A digital watch or watch with a second hand, together with an appropriate chart for recording, is required.


  1. Explain procedure and ensure adequate understanding
  2. Count respirations as chest risesand falls for a period of one minute
  3. Observe depth of respirations
  4. Listen for breath sounds, e.g. stridor, wheeze, rub, rattle
  5. Observe pattern of breathing and use of accessory muscles
  6. Observe colour of skin/mucous membranes, e.g. pallor, cyanosis
  7. Record rate on appropriate chart and report any abnormalities

To monitor rate and compare to norm 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

Pulse-to-respiration ratio = 5:1