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Ask The Expert

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:23 -- Dawn
Darlene Hutton, RN, BScN, MSN

Question:  As a fairly new educator in the telemetry/medical unit or Emergency Department, what steps would you suggest taking in helping new nurses to the unit understand ECG Interpretation?

 

Today's Expert is Darlene Hutton, RN, BScN, MSN

Darlene Hutton has worked in CCU, ICU, PACU, and Emergency as a bedside nurse, educator, and manager. She is currently working as a Clinical Research Manager at Rouge Valley Metabolic Research Associates in Toronto. Darlene also is an Educational Consultant providing workshops, seminars, and conferences on such topics as ECG Interpretation, Dysrhythmia Interpretation, Acute Coronary Syndromes and Cardiology Drugs. She is also an ACLS Course Director and runs courses throughout the province. Her company, QRS Educational Services, founded 18 years ago, provides education to nurses and other health care professionals throughout Canada. She is also the Department Head for Emergency Preparedness in the O.R. in the American College of Plastic Surgical Nursing journal.

 [email protected]

(905) 706-3301     www.qrs-education.com     www.facebook.com/qrs.educationservices


ANSWER:

As an independent educator for the past 20 years, I have had the incredible pleasure of spending time with novice to expert nurses in their respective field from a variety of different hospital settings.  My response to this question comes from what I have learned from each of these individuals over the past 2 decades.

We know that the “expert” practitioner is sometimes not the best educator because of their own challenges in bringing the information to a basic level of understanding.  What makes an educator invaluable is their ability to bring the most advanced concepts to the level of understanding for the individual and tailor the education to that level.

A novice nurse entering into one of these units will likely have had some courses in rhythm interpretation as a basic entry level requirement.  However, I find that many of these nurses have not had adequate preparation time in being able to apply a systematic approach to assessing the 12 Lead ECG. When working in these types of units, promptly assessing the ECG is essential to ensure there is no time delay in notifying the physician of anything urgent.

I apply a step-wise approach in ensuring that the basics are understood before moving on to the more intricate aspects of the ECG.

The basics that I assess are:

1. Ensure the nurse understands what the P, QRS, and ST represent and their significance, if abnormal. Most importantly, I ask them to point out examples of ST elevation and depression on various ECGs.  You would be surprised at how many people do not know this very core concept and before discussing treatment management and complications, this basic concept needs to be well understood. If you only have 30 minutes to spend with a nurse on this particular day, this would be the priority, in my opinion.

2. The next step would then be to assess their knowledge and discuss what’s happening with ST elevation/depression, including the treatment strategies. This can be achieved in 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Third: anticipated complications. I can’t tell you how often I hear nurses want to give a saline bolus to a hypotensive patient experiencing an anterior wall MI.  They do not understand the pathophysiology and their actions will subsequently worsen the situation.  Apart from cardiac arrest occurring with any MI, I expect that everyone understands the ‘expected’ complications associated with the inferior and anterior wall MI. For this, I keep it very simple so retention of information remains. “The heart is comprised of 2 pumps. If the right pump fails and backs up, what will you notice? Will the chest be wet or dry? (about 1/3 of the group will say wet, which is incorrect). If the left pump fails and backs up (such as in an anterior MI), where does it back up to? Will the chest be wet or dry?” By keeping it simple, the concepts are easier to understand and retain.

4. In many of the hospitals, there is an annual recertification of the ECG basics and this is another opportunity as an educator to assist those who may be struggling. 

5. I also provide staff with reference tools so they can help themselves learn at their own pace. On my educational website: www.qrs-education.com , there are reference links and tips under the QRS Tips tab as well as our manual which you can read about in the Products page. This manual has taken the complex concepts to a more manageable level. I also promote Dawn’s website (www.ecgguru.com ) as another invaluable tool. Two examples of interactive links are:  www.practicalclinicalskills.com  and www.skillsstat.com 

I hope this has helped. Thank you.

Darlene Hutton

President, QRS Educational Services

www.qrs-education.com  

 

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