Accurate readings help physicians assess patients’ medical conditions
Administering electrocardiograms to assess heart function is a common job duty for professional medical assistants, as anyone enrolled in Salter’s professional medical assistant training program can tell you.
Electrocardiograms, commonly referred to as ECGs or EKGs, help physicians detect and diagnose coronary heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions.
A proper readout from an EKG can be a critical diagnostic tool to help ensure that doctors are able to make appropriate diagnoses. If you’re a professional medical assistant, or training to become one, see if you can answer these questions about how to get an accurate EKG reading.
[This information comes courtesy of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).]
1. True or false: Interacting with the patient during the procedure isn’t important
A clear readout is hard to come by if you have a patient who can’t remain still. Keep in mind, some people may be nervous about the procedure, or they may be experiencing chest pains.
In those instances, remaining calm is key to setting the tone for the procedure. Using a reassuring voice, explain to the patient what you’re going to do and why. For example, say, “Now I’m going to place some electrodes on your chest. They feel like little stickers,” or “Now I’m going to start the reading. You won’t feel anything. The test should take 5-10 minutes. All you need to do is lie still.”
2. True or false: Skin naturally conducts electricity
EKGs rely on proper electrical conduction. However, human skin isn’t an ideal conductor for electricity.
If time allows, taking some extra steps to prepare the site where the electrodes will be placed can help ensure a better reading. For example, shave thick body hair that may get in the way. Then clean and dry each electrode site.
You may also want to use a mild abrasive that can remove oils that might interfere with electrical conduction.
3. True or false: It doesn’t matter which electrode goes where
It’s important to remember that each wire and electrode is intended for one specific place on the body. According to the AAMA, putting a right-side electrode on the left side of a patient’s body is a frequent cause of misconnections.
Luckily, many of today’s EKG machines can alert you to such errors.
However, even with the help of advanced technology, learning the appropriate placement for the precordial electrodes that are adhered to a patient’s torso can still be a challenge. Why? Simply because human bodies come in such a wide array of shapes and sizes.
That’s when having real-world practice under your belt can help ensure that you’re doing the job correctly. Find out how professional medical assistant training at Salter uses a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training.
Request more information or schedule a tour at one of Salter’s campuses in New Bedford, Fall River, Tewksbury, or Malden.