Accuracy of Electrocardiogram Reading by Family Practice Residents

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Objectives: This study evaluated the electrocardiogram (EKG) reading skills of family practice residents.

Methods: A multicenter study was carried out to evaluate the accuracy of EKG reading in the family practice setting. Based on the frequency and potential for clinical significance, we chose 18 common findings on 10 EKGs for evaluation. The EKGs were then distributed to residents at six family practice residencies. Residents were given one point for the identification of each correct EKG finding and scored based on the number correct over a total of 18.

Results: Sixty-one residents (20 first year 23 second year; and 18 third year) completed readings for 10 EKGs and were evaluated for their ability to identify 18 EKG findings. The median score out of 18 possible points for all first-, second-, and third-year residents was 12, 12, and 11.5, respectively. Twenty-one percent of residents did nor correctly identify a tracing of an acute myocardial infarction. Data analysis showed no statistically significant difference among the three groups of residents.

Conclusions: We evaluated the accuracy of EKG reading skills of family practice residents at each year of training. This study suggests that EKG reading skills do not improve during residency, and further study of curricular change to improve these skills should be considered.


This article was originally published in Family Medicine, volume 32, issue 5, in 2000.


American Academy of Family Physicians