Maureen KnechtelHeart Institute Physician Assistant Writes Book To Help Midlevel Providers With Electrocardiograms

An electrocardiogram - or EKG - is a well-established test for gathering critical heart data, but it could be better understood by some medical professionals who perform them.

That is the premise of "EKGs for the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant," a new book by Maureen Knechtel, a physician assistant with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute in Kingsport. It is the latest example of the region's largest cardiovascular practice dispensing its expertise and showing leadership to advance the quality of patient care.

"My main reason for writing the book was the increasing numbers of physician assistants and nurse practitioners nationwide providing primary and urgent care," she said. "Oftentimes, they are the first line of defense."

EKGs can detect cardiac rhythm disturbances, arterial blockages and even electrical short circuits within the heart, Knechtel said. Findings from an EKG can lead to heart surgery or cardiac catheterization.

Medical literature discusses the use of EKGs, but Knechtel believed no book was geared specifically for midlevel care providers who are often charged with interpreting an EKG.

"Many physician assistants and nurse practitioners just don't feel comfortable interpreting an EKG immediately after completing their schooling," she said. Knechtel aims in her book to explain to these caregivers the how and why associated with this important diagnostic tool.

Mistakes in EKG usage and interpretation of data gathered can lead to missing a diagnosis, she said.

"People in primary care sometimes feel it's a cardiologist's task to read and interpret an EKG," Knechtel said. "They think, 'I just have to know the basics.' But it is also the responsibility of the primary care providers to be confident and competent in this potentially lifesaving task."

Those charged with interpreting EKG results should always take a systematic approach, she said.

"Never leave anything out and correlate the data with what the patient tells you is happening," she said.

Knechtel also hopes the book will be useful to medical residents and nursing staff, those who would most likely be involved in performing and interpreting EKGs. Physician assistants must have 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and she believes her book could be a tool in that process.

Ordering information for "EKGs for the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant" can be found at www.springerpub.com by searching for Knechtel. The book can also be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most other major book retailers.