Electrocardiogram interpretation is a subject that most students find difficult to master. In my opinion, the problem lies in the way EKGs are presented. The abstract concepts are laid out in pages filled with numbers and lines, and we find ourselves memorizing information with the hope of simply passing a test.

I decided to write the book EKGs for the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant after precepting many NP and PA students who expressed the same grievances that I did when I was in graduate school with regard to EKG interpretation. I found most books on the market to be either too simplified or too advanced to be applicable in daily clinical practice. I also found that many current books gloss over more complex subjects such as pacemaker EKGs and differentiation of supraventricular tachycardia. These are topics that are vital to understand in order utilize all the tools a 12 lead EKG has to offer. I became frustrated trying to find a book geared just for me — a mid-level provider who doesn’t have months to spend mastering a difficult subject in the way it is presented in the current literature. In order for me to truly understand EKGs, I needed to find a style of teaching which places more emphasis on the physiologic process responsible for the intervals and deflections seen on the EKG, and not just the presentation of the facts.

After careful consideration and a honing of my approach to the subject, I decided that perhaps there was a whole population of practicing providers and aspiring students who could potentially benefit from this concept. My approach utilizes a clinical, systematic approach to facilitate a thorough understanding of a difficult topic and aid in comprehensive EKG interpretation. This way of learning is extremely efficient in fostering a long term mastery of the 12 lead EKG, as it places the learning focus on understanding, not on memorization.

With the current national shortage of physicians only expected to worsen, more and more NPs and PAs are going to be relied upon to provide primary care. We will become the first line of defense when it comes to early detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The EKG is an inexpensive tool, which when utilized correctly, can result in significant improvement in morbidity and mortality. We owe it to our patients to be a master of the 12 lead EKG, no matter what our specialty. It is my hope that this book will place its reader one step closer to that goal.