Pulse oximetry and the enduring neglect of respiratory rate assessment: A commentary on patient surveillance

Malcolm Elliott, Jill Baird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical surveillance provides essential data on changes in a patient's condition. The common method for performing this surveillance is the assessment of vital signs. Despite the importance of these signs, research has found that vital signs are not rigorously assessed in clinical practice. Respiratory rate, arguably the most important vital sign, is the most neglected. Poor understanding might contribute to nurses incorrectly valuing oxygen saturation more than respiratory rate. Nurses need to understand the importance of respiratory rate assessment as a vital sign and the benefits and limitations of pulse oximetry as a clinical tool. By better understanding pulse oximetry and respiratory rate assessment, nurses might be more inclined to conduct rigorous vital signs' assessment. Research is needed to understand why many nurses do not appreciate the importance of vital signs' monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1256-1259
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of Nursing
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2019


  • Clinical assessment
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Respiratory rate

Cite this