Nurses should be taught not to miss a beat, says cardiologist

Harmandeep Singh and Gary LaTouche
Harmandeep Singh and Gary LaTouche

Cardiologist Harmandeep Singh says nurses can play a vital role in improving health outcomes for patients with heart related conditions by learning how to effectively read an electrocardiogram (ECG).

The consultant, who works at Ealing Hospital, carried out an informal staff audit of the hospital’s six wards asking if nurses knew how to read an ECG.

He was surprised to find only two of the 50 recipients said yes.

In response, Harmandeep 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.

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

“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 improve patient outcomes through timely diagnosis.”

The one day course has been well received across London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust’s hospital sites.

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

There is also a focus on interpreting the ECG’s for the two most common heart attacks: ST Elevation MI and Non ST Elevation MI and Arrhythmia’s: Tachy-arrhythmia’s, Brady-arrhythmia’s including heart blocks.

Harmandeep added: “The fact that heart conditions are the primary cause of death globally, and only next to cancer in Europe, is 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. Nurses would be able to spot this as part of their day-to-day work.”

If anyone would like to know more about the training days please email gary.latouche@nhs.net