A total of 155 patients with abnormal vital signs were identified, and nursing staff was interviewed about 139 patients. In 61 of these 139 patients, one or more vital signs were measured by the evening nursing staff. The respiratory rate was not measured by nursing staff. In 86 cases staff decided to intervene because of abnormal vital signs measured by study personnel. A total of 77% of patients had vital signs documented in their records on the day of the observation. The documentation of vital signs was significantly higher when staff expressed concern for a patient in the patient record (95% vs. 65%, chi(2): p < 0.001), but 30-day mortality did not differ significantly (15% vs. 10%, chi(2): p = 0.40).