Healthcare Insider Blog

What about EKGs? A guide for nursing students

  • Healthcare Alvernia

The ability to look inside a patient and evaluate cardiac status is vital to identifying a variety of cardiac conditions, which is why doctors and nurses rely on electrocardiography (EKG or ECG).

An EKG records the heart’s electrical activity and translates the activity into line tracings on a paper. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves. Healthcare professionals look for patterns among these heartbeats and rhythms to diagnose various heart conditions.

During this test, the heart’s electrical activity is checked typically to find the cause of chest pains or other symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or irregular heartbeats. EKGs are also used to evaluate:

  • The thickness of the heart muscle
  • The progress of medicines or devices implanted in the heart, such as pacemakers
  • The health of the heart when the patient has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes or a family history of early heart disease

At Alvernia University, the Nursing department understands the rising need to add EKGs into their curriculum.

suzanne mader assiatnt professor nursing

“EKGs have been added to the curriculum as more patients are on continuous EKG monitoring in acute care settings,” explains Suzanne Mader, MSN, RN, assistant professor of Nursing at Alvernia. “A fundamental exposure to them allows the student to have a familiarity with the normal EKG before tackling abnormal EKGs after graduation depending on their area of specialty.”

Healthcare providers use EKGs to aid in responding appropriately to potentially life-threatening arrhythmias quickly. For nurses, EKG interpretation is used as part of a comprehensive process of ongoing assessment provided as the core of care delivered at the bedside.

“Nurses may determine the need for an EKG based on other patient symptoms or assessment findings,” adds Mader. “EKGs are tools used by nurses, like blood pressures and temperatures, to convert data to information that helps them make decisions to promote safety and positive outcomes for patients.”

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