At a 2015 American Medical Association meeting, 159 medical students were given a blood pressure check challenge with a simulated patient. Only one – one! – performed all 11 elements they’re trained to do. The average number of steps performed correctly was 4.1.
One of the biggest mistakes: Failing to have a patient rest for five minutes in a chair before the measurement. Only 11 of these doctors-in-training did that.
The study was published last summer in JAMA, a leading medical journal. An article about the study includes a sobering message from Raymond R. Townsend, M.D., a study co-author and director of the hypertension program at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania. Townsend was named the AHA’s Physician of the Year in 2016.
“I used to have a standing challenge on rounds at Penn: ‘If you can do a blood pressure correctly in my presence, I will buy you a dinner [at a] restaurant of your choice in Philadelphia,’” Townsend said. “After 10 years, not a single person – resident, fellow or student – ever could do it.”
For patients, there’s a lot more than a free meal riding on an accurate reading. So the next time you strap on a blood pressure cuff, make sure as much time and effort is invested into an accurate reading.