Electrocardiographic telemetry monitors are ubiquitous in hospitals. Dedicated monitor watchers, either on the unit or in a centralized location, are often responsible for observing telemetry monitors and responding to their alarms. The impact of use of monitor watchers is not known.
To evaluate the association of monitor-watcher use with (1) nurses’ knowledge of electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring and (2) accuracy of arrhythmia detection.
Baseline data from 37 non–intensive care unit cardiac patient care areas in 17 hospitals in the Practical Use of the Latest Standards for Electrocardiography trial were analyzed. Nurses’ knowledge (n = 1136 nurses) was measured using a validated, 20-item online test. Accuracy of arrhythmia detection (n = 1189 patients) was assessed for 5 consecutive days by comparing arrhythmias stored in the monitor with nurses’ documentation. Multiple regression was used to evaluate the association of use of monitor watchers with scores on the ECG-monitoring knowledge test. The association of monitor-watcher use with accuracy of arrhythmia detection was examined by χ2 analysis.
Of the 37 units, 13 (35%) had monitor watchers. Use of monitor watchers was not independently associated with ECG-monitoring knowledge (P = .08). The presence of monitor watchers also was not significantly associated with the accuracy of arrhythmia detection (P = .94).
Although the use of monitor watchers was not associated with diminished nurses’ knowledge of ECG monitoring, it also was not associated with more accurate arrhythmia detection. If implementing a monitor-watcher program, critical safety points, such as ensuring closed-loop communication, must be considered.