Recognition and Interpretation of Life-Threatening ECG Rhythms

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About the Course


Audience: Nurses who care for patients being monitored for ECG rate and rhythm will benefit from this course. Monitored patients and their primary care providers have an expectation that nurses working on monitor units are competent in assessing the ECG rhythm and responding appropriately to changes in rate and rhythm. This course serves as an overview of rhythms that may be life-threatening, either immediately or over the longer term. It is intended for health care providers who have an understanding of cardiac structure, function, the basic features of the most common cardiac rhythms, and basic patient assessment skills. 

Course Overview:

Recognition and Interpretation of Life-threatening ECG Rhythms is an overview of the ECG dysrhythmias which may pose a threat to life, either immediately or over the longer term. It is designed for nurses and other health care professionals who have a basic knowledge of ECG rhythm interpretation and patient assessment. This course provides a discussion of dangerous rhythms, including the mechanisms that cause patient harm. Guidelines on how to recognize and interpret these dysrhythmias are given, and sample strips are provided. Recommended nursing actions are also discussed. You will gain skill in recognizing and interpreting potentially dangerous rhythms, and be more confident in your response to life-threatening rhythms. 

 

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the learner should be able to:

  • Describe sinus rhythms, and give examples of when they might require intervention due to abnormal rates.
  • Explain how cardiac rhythms can affect cardiac output.
  • Describe features of dysrhythmias that make them dangerous or potentially dangerous.
  • Accurately recognize potentially life-threatening dysrhythmias.
  • Describe appropriate nursing interventions for the patient in unstable SVT, atrial flutter, or atrial fibrillation.
  • Describe appropriate nursing interventions for the patient in unstable ventricular tachycardia.
  • Describe appropriate nursing interventions for the patient in ventricular fibrillation.
  • Recognize and appropriately respond to idioventricular escape rhythm.
  • Recognize potentially dangerous AV blocks and differentiate them from relatively benign AVB.
  • Describe appropriate nursing interventions for the patient with hemodynamically-unstable AV block.
  • Explain why it is important to recognize early hyperkalemia.
  • Describe appropriate nursing interventions for the patient with suspected acute myocardial infarction.
  • Recognize the ECG changes associated with tricyclic antidepressant overdose.
  • Recognize the ECG changes associated with increased intracranial pressure.
  • List ways nurses can be better prepared to respond to dysrhythmia emergencies.

About the Author

Dawn Altman, RN

Dawn Altman has been teaching ECG interpretation to health care providers for over 35 years. After a long career as an Emergency Department nurse and Paramedic clinical instructor, she worked in a large full-service cardiac hospital. Dawn is an accomplished instructor who teaches basic ECG interpretation as well as more advanced 12-lead ECG interpretation. In 1986, she authored an ECG textbook (under the name Dawn Bean). She now administers a website designed to provide free teaching materials for other ECG instructors.

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