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Hospital launches course to teach nurses how to read ECGs

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A first-of-its-kind course teaching nurses how to read an electrocardiogram (ECG) has been launched to address a “skills gap” and potentially save lives.

It comes after Ealing Hospital cardiologist Harmandeep Singh discovered just two out of 50 surveyed nurses across the West London site knew how to correctly read an ECG.

“It’s a skills gap we think needs to be addressed across the country”

Harmandeep Singh

In response, Dr Singh and senior cardiac nurse Gary LaTouche have set up what is believed to be the first hospital-led ECG training courses for nurses in the UK.

Dr Singh said nurses could play a vital role in improving health outcomes for patients with heart conditions by learning how to effectively read an ECG.

He said: “We know nurses can carry out ECGs but they have no formal training in reading them as part of their training. It’s a skills gap we think needs to be addressed across the country.”

Dr Singh added: “Traditionally there has always been a heavy reliance on consultants reading ECGs and, during busy periods, vital time can be lost in identifying a potential problem. 

“In an ideal situation, nurses would carry out and read the ECG, alert a consultant to a potential situation, and have the necessary drugs and paperwork prepared if they need to be transferred to a specialist treatment centre. This will potentially help in improving patient outcome by timely diagnosis,” he said.

Dr Singh said the one-day course had been well received across London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust’s hospital sites, which includes Ealing Hospital.

Ealing Hospital NHS Trust

Entrance to Ealing Hospital

Ealing Hospital

The training includes how to read an ECG and managing potentially difficult scenarios, such as handling patients with cultural sensitivities and people with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

There is also a focus on interpreting the ECG readings for the most common heart attacks.

Dr Singh added: “The fact that heart conditions are the number one cause of death globally, and only next to cancer in Europe, is even more reason for us to support nurses to step up.”

“A good example of positive intervention would be atrial fibrillation which is often a precursor to stroke,” he said. “Nurses would be able to spot this as part of their day-to-day work.”

For more information about the training courses, email: gary.latouche@nhs.net

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • It's great that a course has evolved enabling nurses to read ECGs , however, on top of an already overbearing workload nurses potentially have even more to do ??

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  • I would have thought any nurse taking an ECG should have some insight into the basics of reading an ECG.
    Raised st segments and inverted are relatively obvious -I think the training would be to empower nurses rather than hold them accountable?

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