Anglais médical - Tout sur les signes vitaux

Cet article fait partie de l'UE :

S1 6.2 Anglais professionnel

Régulièrement, cette rubrique animée par Virginia Allum, auteur et consultante EMP (English for Medical Purposes), vous permettra, exercices à l'appui, de parfaire votre anglais médical au travers de situations de soins concrètes. Bon travail à tous !

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Vous trouverez à la fin de cet article les corrections des exercices qui vous sont proposés téléchargeables au format pdf

Talking about vital signs : What are vital signs ?

Anglais médical - Tout sur les signes vitauxVital signs are also called Patient Observations. They include temperature, pulse, respirations and blood pressure. They may also include a patient’s oxygen saturation levels. Vital signs are taken when a patient is first admitted into the hospital as a baseline record. Baseline vital signs are important for doctors and nurses to understand what is normal for each particular patient.

Nurses record the readings on a Vital Signs chart making sure that they hand over information about abnormal baseline observations. The patient’s vital signs are recorded regularly while they are in hospital. Recording vital signs helps to monitor a patient’s condition after an operation and may also be used to detect early warning signs of health problems, for example fever.

Normal vital sign ranges are the results which are expected for an average healthy adult taken while the person is resting. Temperature, pulse, respirations and blood pressure readings all use different measurement scales but are usually written using a number value only. For example, a blood pressure of 110/70 , not 110/70mm/Hg.

Activity 1

Worth knowing

Vital signmeasured asnormal limits

Blood pressure

millimeter of mercury

90/60 - 120/80

°F or °C
degrees Fahrenheit (US) or degrees Celcius

1°C = 33.8°F

97°F to 99°F
ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit to ninety-nine-degrees Fahrenheit

36°C to 37.5°C
thirty-six degrees Celcius to thirty-seven point five degrees Celcius

breaths per minute
twelve to eighteen
Pulse beats per minute 60-100
sixty to one hundred
Oxygen Saturations

% percentage of saturated oxygen in the blood
ninety-seven to ninety-nine per cent

1°C = 33.8°F

Read the text ‘What are vital signs?’ and complete the following statements. Choose from the words below.

breaths ; normal ; monitor ; over ; range ; baseline ; point ; abnormal ; beats

The first vital signs which are taken when a patient arrives on the ward are called __________ vital signs.

Nurse hand over information about _______________ (not normal) baseline observations.

Vital signs help to _____________ ( keep an eye on) a patient’s condition after an operation.

An average healthy adult is expected to have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________ vital sign ranges if they are measured during a resting period.

A blood pressure of 90/60 is measured in millimeters of mercury and spoken as ninety _______ sixty.

A pulse of 80 means eighty _____________ (of the heart) per minute.

Respirations are measured as ________________per minute.

Temperature may be measured using the Fahrenheit or Celcius scale. Normal body temperature is between thirty-six degrees to thirty-seven _____________five degrees Celcius.

Oxygen saturation of 98% is within the normal ___________for a healthy adult.

Activity 2

Grammar Focus : Talking about numbers with a decimal point.

Be careful to use the word ‘point’ when you talk about numbers such as 36.5 (thirty-six point five). A comma is used when writing thousands e.g 2,000 = two thousand.

How would you say the following numbers ; write them in words. The first one is done for you.

38.2 ° C thirty-eight point two degrees
37.3 ° C ___________________________________________________
36.9 ° C ___________________________________________________
35.4 ° C ___________________________________________________

Activity 3

Handing over information about Vital Signs

Nurses frequently give colleagues information about patient care. This is often done during a Nursing Handover. This is the time between nursing shifts when staff from the shift which is finishing ‘hands over’ their patients to staff on the next shift. Nurses often use abbreviations of terms when they speak to colleagues.

Abbreviations of Vital Sign terms:

BP blood pressure
oxygen saturation

There are two ways to express Vital Signs – His BP’s……. (easier) or He’s got a BP of…. (more difficult).

For example:
His BP is 115/75
He’s got a BP of 115/75

Look at the handover notes below. Nurse Julie wants to remember the Vital Signs of her patient so she can hand over the information to her colleagues. Complete the information using the numbers below.

37.40 ; 76 ; 14 ; 168/100 ; 98%

Patient: Jim Greenway
His BP is ______________________
His pulse is ____________________
His resps are ___________________
His temp is ____________________
His sats are _____________________

Activity 4

Grammar Focus: singular or plural?

Which terms take the plural form of the verb (are) and which terms take the singular form (is) ?

BP ; Pulse ; resps ; Temp ; Sats

singular - isplural - are

Activity 5

Equipment used to take a patient’s blood pressure

Manual BP monitoringDigital BP monitoring

Manometre manuel



BP moniteur digital

Complete the descriptions of manual and digital BP monitors. Use the terms below to help you.

bulb ; finger-nail ; cuff ; monitor ; stethoscope ; heartbeat ; digital ; cuff

Manual BP monitoringDigital BP monitoring

inflation bulb
stethoscope needed

Place ________around patient’s upper arm
Place __________diaphragm over inside of elbow
Pump up the inflation__________ to an estimated reading
Slowly release the inflation bulb until _____________sounds disappear for the top and bottom readings

oximeter lead and clip
digital display
no stethoscope needed

Place ­­­­­­­­­­­­_______ around patient’s upper arm
Place oximeter clip over any __________
Turn __________on and commence cycle
Wait for result to show on _________screen

Activity 6

Grammar Focus: Remembering phrases

It’s a good idea to learn the verb which ‘belongs’ to a medical term rather than just learning the term in isolation. Here is a list of common expressions you will use to describe taking a patient’s vital signs :
  • take a blood pressure
  • take a pulse
  • do a patient’s resps (respirations)
  • take a temperature
  • do a sats reading

Complete the following sentences

Can I _______________ your blood pressure, please?
I’m going to check your vital signs in a minute. Do you mind if I _________________ your temperature?
I’ll put this oximeter clip on your finger and _____________ your sats reading.
You had a fever earlier today so I’ll ________________ your temp now to check it.
Can you please hold up your arm so I can _______________ your pulse?
He’s breathing very slowly so it would be a good idea to ____________ his respiration rate.

Activity 7

Communication Focus: Talking about abnormal vital sign results

Medical terms :

  • hyper : high
  • hypo : low
  • tachy : fast
  • brady : slow

Abnormal results may be expressed as too high or low or too fast or slow. You’ll find these prefixes are often used to talk about abnormal body functions. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook with a glossary of medical terms (prefixes and suffixes) to help you to memorize them. Medical terms have been borrowed from both Latin and Greek languages and can be difficult to remember at first, however, you’ll find that the same prefix or suffix will be used many times over so once it is learned it will be see again and again.

Complete the definitions of abnormal terms :

low ; fast ; high ; low ; slow

Hypertension means _____________blood pressure.
Hypotension means ______________ blood pressure.
Tachycardia means a ______________ pulse.
Bradycardia means a ______________pulse.
Hypothermia means a _____________temperature

Activity 8

Complete the table below by adding the medical terms in the final column. The first one is done for you.

ElementNormal resultAbnormal resultMedical term
Blood pressure
Normal High blook pressure
Low blood pressure
Regular Fast pulse
Slow pulse
Regular Slow resps
fast resps
Normal High temperature
Low temperature

Activity 9

A note about talking about temperature and respiration

Hyperthermia means high temperature. It’s more common to use pyrexia or fever or say he’s got a fever or he’s pyrexical.
Tachypnoea means fast breathing. It’s more common to use fast breathing or say ‘he’s breathing very fast’
Bradypnoea means slow breathing. It’s more common to use slow breathing or say ‘he’s breathing very slowly’

Grammar focus : Pronunciation

The prefix –tachy is pronounced using a /k/ sound (ch=k)
The suffix –pnoea is usually pronounced with a ‘silent p’. An alternative spelling of –pnea is also used.

Nurse Julie is telling a colleague about her patient’s vital signs. Complete the dialogue using the words below.

tachycardia ; pyrexical ; breathing

“I’ll tell you about Mr Brown in bed 8 before I go home. I just took his temperature and he’s still______________. His temp was 38.5. He’s also _____________very fast, around 18 breaths a minute and he’s got __________________of around 90 beats per minute. I’ve called the doctor to come and see him straightaway.”

Activity 10

Text : The dangers of blood pressure and pulse abnormalities.

Cambridge English for Nursing

Most of the time a patient with hypotension has other health problems as well. The symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, headaches and difficulty breathing. Patients may also have a rapid pulse and complain of chest pain. Low blood pressure usually means that a patient has kidney or heart problems and can be as serious as hypertension.

Tachycardia causes the heart itself to beat faster which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Patients are advised to see their doctor if their pulse rate is over 83 beats per minute as they may need to take medication to slow their heart rate.

Of course, it is normal to expect the heart rate to increase after exercise but if tachycardia continues after resting, it should be reported to a doctor. Tachycardia affects blood pressure readings and can also cause atherosclerosis or the formation of hard plaques on artery walls. When these plaques break off, they can cause blockage of blood vessels which may also cause heart attacks if the blockage is complete.

Answer the following statements True or False about the text above.

1 Low blood pressure can be the cause of a person feeling lightheaded.

2 Hypertension is a more serious condition than hypotension.

3 Tachycardia means a slow pulse rate.

4 A fast heart rate can be regulated by taking medication.

5 Tachycardia is always a serious health concern.

True / False

True / False

True / False

True / False

True / False

Activity 11

Medical Focus: equipment to take patient Observations

11 A - Match the equipment (1–5) to the definitions (a–e).

1 blood pressure cuff

2 digital blood pressure monitor

3 pulse oximeter

4 scales

5 tympanic thermometer

a takes a patient’s blood pressure

b wraps around a patient’s arm to take blood pressure

c takes a patient’s temperature

d recordsa patient’s blood oxygen saturation

e weigh a patient

11 B - Match the pictures (1–5) below to the equipment in Exercise 4a.

Matériel de mesure

Creative Commons License

Author and Consultant in English for Medical Purposes
United Kingdom

Cet article fait partie de l'UE :

S1 6.2 Anglais professionnel


Commentaires (4)


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very good

c'est vraiment impeccable comme cours ,c'est d'ailleurs très utile pour nous autres débutants en la matière


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très utile, merci !


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What a good idea !
Great work ;)