Background The practice standard for electrocardiographic monitoring in hospitals recommends use of atrial electrograms after cardiac surgery to help diagnose cardiac arrhythmias.

Objectives To determine whether use of atrial electrograms significantly improves nurses’ ability to diagnose cardiac arrhythmias and to assess nurses’ perceptions of the ease of obtaining and interpreting electrograms, the frequency of use of atrial electrograms, and the correlation between nurses’ experience with the technique and arrhythmia scores.

Methods In total, 282 nurses completed a test consisting of 5 electrocardiographic rhythms for which use of atrial electrograms might improve interpretation. A standardized educational session on obtaining and interpreting atrial electrograms was given to 165 nurses who had not previously received such education. In a second test, the same rhythms were provided along with atrial electrograms to 261 nurses. Overall changes in total test scores and individual changes in interpreting rhythms were analyzed. Demographic information, perceptions of the ease of obtaining and interpreting atrial electrograms, and the frequency of use were collected. Correlation between scores on the second test and nurses’ years of experience in interpreting atrial electrograms was determined.

Results Use of atrial electrograms significantly increased overall arrhythmia interpretation scores. Nurses rated obtaining atrial electrograms as easy and interpreting the findings as moderately easy. Despite this reported ease, 57.1% of nurses obtained atrial electrograms less than monthly and only 3.4% obtained them daily. Correlation between experience with atrial electrograms and arrhythmia test scores was not significant.

Conclusions Nurses’ use of atrial electrograms improves diagnoses of cardiac arrhythmias.

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