What is an EKG: A Medical Assisting Guide

The EKG is one the most common tests used to identify heart conditions. Testing for heart and blood vessel disorders with an electrocardiogram (EKG) is non-invasive and is used to assess the condition of the heart and blood vessels. The EKG machine will show if the patient’s heart is damaged or short of oxygen.

The medical assistant is responsible for obtaining a good-quality EKG without avoidable artifacts. An artifact is an abnormal signal that does not reflect electrical activity of the heart during the cardiac cycle. The medical assistant must make sure that the patient doesn’t move, there are no mechanical problems with the EKG machine, and there are no other machines turned on in the room that can interfere with the EKG.

What is an EKG?

The EKG is one of the most valuable diagnostic tools for evaluating the electrical pathways through the heart. An EKG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. With each beat, an electrical impulse travels through the heart, and the wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart. The EKG can measure how fast the heart beats and how well the chambers conduct electrical energy.

Performing an EKG?

Before any EKG is performed, it is important for the medical assistant to interview the patient to obtain the medications they are currently taking. This will help to identify any changes or abnormalities that may arise in the EKG tracing. The physical, performed by the medical assistant, will provide vital signs from the patient that include weight, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature to further supplement the EKG results. Prior to the EKG, the medical assistant will want to obtain current symptoms and a family history of cardiovascular disorders. Finally, the medical assistant will want to know about the patient’s social habits including the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, whether the patient has a healthy diet, and if they participate in any exercise regimens.

Preparing A Patient for an EKG?

Before performing the EKG, the medical assistant will want to make sure that no other machines in the room are causing any electric interference.
The medical assistant will turn on the EKG machine and explain the procedure to the patient, answering any questions the patient may have. The patient will be asked to remove all jewelry, socks and shoes and lay down on the table on his or her back. The medical assistant will ask the patient to breathe normally while laying still. The medical assistant will then clean the patient’s skin with rubbing alcohol where the electrodes will be placed and apply the electrodes in the proper positions. The EKG has 12 leads that produce a two-dimensional record of the impulse waves. Each lead records the electrical impulse through the heart from a different angle, giving the physician a complete view of the heart. The cables will then be attached to the electrodes. The medical assistant will enter the patient data into the EKG machine and the EKG tracing will begin. All artifacts are identified and eliminated if possible. After the EKG is complete, the medical assistant will remove electrodes allowing the patient privacy to get dressed. Lastly, the medical assistant will then record the procedure on the patient’s chart.

When to Perform an EKG?

An EKG can be performed during a routine physical examination or screening evaluation for patients with hereditary predisposition to cardiovascular issues. The EKG is also administered as part of a cardiac exercise stress test. An EKG should be ordered if the patient is experiencing any symptoms of cardiovascular issues including chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or palpitations. The EKG can also be administered before surgery to make sure the patient’s heart is healthy enough to withstand the surgery.

When Does a Medical Assistant Learn to Administer an EKG?

Learning how to perform an EKG will be taught during a medical assisting program at a vocational institution. Students will perform EKGs under the supervision of instructors. The student will prepare both the patient and the EKG machine in an effort to learn how to perform the EKG with the least number of artifacts. The student will also learn how to record the EKG.

Did learning about EKGs interest you? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field? PCI Health Training Center’s Medical Assistant programs prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Medical Assistant. Within this general career category there are several specialty areas, including Medical Administrative Office Assistant, Clinic Assistant, Clinic Tech, Medical Office Manager, Phlebotomist, Physical Therapy Aide in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital out-patient clinic.

Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical assistant and start a rewarding career today.

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