Electrocardiograms

Mental health service users are more likely than the general population to experience cardiovascular disease. This may be due to ischaemic events through stress or an unhealthy lifestyle, or they can arise from drug-induced QT interval prolongation. As a result, RMNs are likely to encounter service users who require an electrocardiogram (ECG). This post provides links to help nurses understand what an ECG does, and provide insight into how they are interpreted.

DISCLAIMER: In no way should this post or its links be used as a substitute for hands-on ECG training. It should be seen as a complimentary theoretical resource only. Even with the appropriate training, nurses should consult with a physician on successful completion of an ECG.

For those who prefer to read as a way of studying, there is a fantastic resource to investigate from the University of Nottingham. Their Cardiology Teaching Package assumes no prior knowledge of cardiology or experience of taking ECGs. Section by section, it will gently take you through a comprehensive array of theoretical concepts and associated practical considerations.

For those who would prefer something more audiovisual, a series of 5 minute videos from Central Manchester University Hospitals are worth watching. Although they are intended for medical students, the level of detail is not overwhelming and the narrator isn’t afraid of cracking the odd joke or two. The four videos in the series are embedded below, in the order they are meant to be viewed in.

Further academic reading

For qualified NHS staff, see the Resources page for how to access these articles.

  • Sampson, M. & McGrath, A. 2015, “Understanding the ECG. Part 1: Anatomy and physiology”, British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, vol. 10, no. 11, pp. 548-554.
  • Sampson, M. & McGrath, A. 2015, “Understanding the ECG Part 2: ECG basics”, British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, vol. 10, no. 12, pp. 588-594.
  • Sampson, M. 2016, “Understanding the ECG. Part 3: Arrhythmias”, British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 15-20.

Picture credits:
Atrial fibrillation (2007) by CardioNetworks. From Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by Ben Murphy

Ben is a registered mental health nurse and a lecturer in Biosciences at City, University of London. Amongst other things, he teaches anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and therapeutics to pre-reg. and post-reg. nurses.

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