Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us

Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, temperature, pain. What do these vital signs tell you about your body? Learn the basic physiology underlying the vital signs and how to accurately assess them.

About The Course

The vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and pain – communicate important information about the physiological status of the human body. In this six-week course we explore the anatomy and physiology underlying the vital signs so that you will develop a systematic, integrated understanding of how the body functions. Relevant body systems are reviewed including cardiovascular and respiratory, followed by explanations of how the function of these systems affects vital signs. We discuss normal ranges, normal variants, and the mechanisms that underlie changes in the objective measurement of vital signs. The course also includes demonstrations of appropriate techniques for measuring vital signs in yourself and others.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What future endeavors will this course prepare me for?
    This course helps you understand the vital signs, thereby preparing you to be a more informed consumer of healthcare, whether for yourself or for a loved one. Individuals with potential interest in a healthcare career may also find this course particularly useful and informative, as may healthcare professionals wishing to refresh their understanding of basic anatomy and physiology.
  • What is the coolest thing about this course?
    This course is designed to make learning enjoyable: We use a variety of teaching modalities, feature conversations with content experts (in addition to the course faculty), and demonstrate vital sign assessment through the use of simulation technology. Best of all, taking this course means you will gain a better understanding of how your body works and what your vital signs mean.

For more information on Penn’s Open Learning initiative, please go to: http://openlearning.upenn.edu

Recommended Background

The course is designed for a broad, general audience but may be particularly interesting for lay caregivers, those considering a career as a healthcare professional, individuals working in healthcare, those with an interest in personal health and fitness, or anyone who simply wants to understand how the body functions. A foundational background in biology and chemistry is beneficial but not required.