McLearning and 12-Lead ECG interpretation

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to paramedic education and the problem of 12-lead ECG interpretation.

Specifically, the reasons why paramedics aren’t taught to actually read a 12-lead ECG and are instead given a crash course in “STEMI recognition” which does not prepare the student to differentiate between the ST-elevation of acute STEMI and other causes of ST-elevation.

This TED Talk by Dan Meyer about high school math education struck a chord with me. I highly recommend the entire talk, but the most relevant part for this discussion starts at 01:50.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWUFjb8w9Ps?fs=1]

Here’s the part that really resonated with me:

“David Milch, creator of Deadwood and other amazing TV shows [...] swore off creating contemporary drama — shows set in the present day — because he saw that when people filled their minds with 4 hours a day of, for example, 2 1/2 Men, it shapes the neuro-pathways in such a way that they expect simple problems. He called it an “impatience with irresolution”. You’re impatient with things that don’t resolve quickly. You expect sitcom-sized problems that wrap up in 22 minutes, 3 commercial breaks and a laugh track.

I’ll put it to all of you — what you already know. No problem worth solving is that simple.”

Doesn’t that exactly describe the paramedic approach to 12-lead ECG interpretation?

EKGs for Dummies, 12-Leads Made Easy, Rapid STEMI ID, etc. etc. etc.

Just the “need to know” information without all the difficulty of axis determination, bundle branch blocks, electrolyte derangements, differential diagnosis of tachycardias, primary and secondary ST-T wave abnormalities, identifying acute STEMI in the presence of STE-mimics, and other things that we have no patience for because we can’t learn it in 22 minutes.

As if we can jump straight to the finish line and enjoy the fruits of victory without ever preparing for the race.

The problem is compounded by policy makers who “don’t know what they don’t know” (thank you Don Rumsfeld). They consider it a foregone conclusion that comprehensive 12-lead ECG knowledge is not practical for paramedics.

I say that it’s indispensable.

4 Comments

  • G.W. says:

    I love that Rumsfeld quote. I have adapted it to my own, "sometimes it is better to know what you don't know than to know what you know."

  • Tom B says:

    I like it, GW! Socrates would agree with you.

    Tom

  • resq93 says:

    I would love to take an advanced 12 lead course. As you said, most courses and educators only teach STEMI recognition – the course i’m probably looking for is only given in medical schools. Let me know when you put a lecture up! I’ve read and reread the books by Dr Garcia which are really good, but there is really is no substitue for a good course.

  • Anonymous says:

    I really like Garcia and Holtz! Good stuff. You’d probably really enjoy my 3-day comprehensive 12-lead ECG course.

    Tom

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EMS 12-Lead

Cardiac Rhythm Analysis, 12-Lead ECG Interpretation, Resuscitation

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Comments
know it all parapup
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
@ Kyle I would question your authority to call out people for not having a license or being a know it all parapup when your tx basically entails "call medical control." I think we can both agree that his cardiac output is not great at all. I assume your reluctance to give him any other…
2014-10-30 20:26:11
Kyle
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
Well st elevation in avr and v1 associated with anterior and lateral depression would call for possible posterior wall MI. 15 lead would be in order. Also check all the leads for appropriate placing. If v7, v8, and v9 show the elevation i would treat as a STEMI per my protocol. Asprin only until medical…
2014-10-30 18:14:05
Tim
The most awesome STEMI test on the internet!
Thanks for the app. It made me think about all that one may see in the field. The only problem was I never got a score or saw the results of how I did other than saying I had completed the test. Anyway a great way to get the old brain working.
2014-10-30 13:14:27
Brian
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
I mostly agree with dustin. I believe this is may be an isolated posterior MI. The R wave in V2 points to it being a posterior MI. otherwise it is a 1st degree av block with a LAHB. I am somewhat concerned with the concordant t segment depression noted and in fact if you were…
2014-10-30 04:22:44
Karl Brennan
Understanding Amiodarone
Great article , however in VF caused by hyperkalemia it should be avoided along with lidocaine , Since it shuts down the K channels, the eiteiology of the arrest hyper K, K channels are needed to exchange K in the cell. Calcium , Bicarbonate, dextrose and insulin should be used to decrease K levels along…
2014-10-30 03:04:45
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