Sunday, August 16, 2009

EKG Training

While working in the Emergency Department, I saw a lot of electrocardiograms (aka ECG or EKG) but did not have the training to read them correctly. Now in our second year of medical training, we are learning the basics of a somewhat complicated art.


An electrocardiogram is a medical tool that provides an electrical reading of the heart's activity. Once you get past placing the leads in all the right places, it is a matter of understanding what the data is trying to say. With lines, spikes, bumps, depressions and what seemingly looks like cat-scratch, they can appear quite daunting to the amateur like myself. Careful observation and study of the markings can reveal a lot of pertinent information about the patient's anatomy and cardiac condition.

EKG training has branched out from the classroom to include online resources and texts that provide a quick reference to normalcy and abnormalities. As both an educational tool and reference book, Dale Dubin has published an easy to read book, Rapid Interpretation of EKG's, which I would recommend to any student of the art. Once there is a foundation of the principles, it is useful to consider a number of unique readings to see how they actually look. Dr. Wes, an electrophysiologist and cardiologist, occasionally shares EKG's on his blog for reader interpretation before posting his diagnosis. In this way, readers are exposed to various rhythms that demonstrate critical findings.

Being competent enough to know what you are seeing is a significant task when reading an EKG. With time and practice, I could be well on my way to understanding it a little better than before. Pathological indications will be jumping off the screen giving vital hints as to what treatments are required, and it's my job to recognize them when I see them. Fortunately, they will not be on living patients for another year.


  1. I must admit, ECGs were my favorite part of the Paramedic Curriculum, and I found I was surprisingly interested in the little nuances the pathological conditions. I'm sure this will be nothing compared to your medical education when it is finished, but I'm glad you decided to write a little about them. Best of luck!

  2. I agree Dan, the little things really make them an interesting part of medicine. Maybe one day I'll be able to read them like a pro.

  3. Thanks for Sharing this information. I feel, EKG Training is most important for the medical student.

  4. This link was shared with me by a reader describing the top ten reasons people need an EKG.

  5. I was looking for ekg technician training and I landed in this post. Had fun reading, I'll be visiting for more for sure

  6. Thanks for this interesting post. I always find understanding ECGs as one of the defining moments when a medical student realises, they're on their way to making it. The next time you see an ECG trace, whether it be in a hospital, on the TV, or when a paramedic does a call-out near where you are; you can't help but feel satisfaction in knowing you can read those squiggly lines on the screen.

  7. downtoearthmedstudent,
    Welcome to the medical student blogosphere! Good luck in your clinical rotations, they are so much more fun than sitting in a classroom all day.


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