The level of documentation of vital signs in many hospitals is extremely poor, and respiratory rate, in particular, is often not recorded. There is substantial evidence that an abnormal respiratory rate is a predictor of potentially serious clinical events. Nurses and doctors need to be more aware of the importance of an abnormal respiratory rate as a marker of serious illness. Hospital systems that encourage appropriate responses to an elevated respiratory rate and other abnormal vital signs can be rapidly implemented. Such systems help to raise and sustain awareness of the importance of vital signs.