* * Anonymous Doc

Monday, October 19, 2009

I have a secret.

I can't read an EKG.

I've learned how to read an EKG. I've learned all about the P-waves and the T-waves, and the QRS complex, and the QT interval. I know about limb leads and precordial leads. I can answer multiple choice questions about which patient has an abnormal rhythm, at least well enough to pass a test, but if you hand me an EKG printout and tell me to tell you if it's normal...

I can't.

Not yet.

And I should be able to. I need to be able to.

Instead, I avoid. I ask someone else. I show a colleague. I show my resident. I ask the attending to "double check." No one expects me to be perfect. No one is perfect at this right away, not without practice. But I feel like I should be better than I am, and I feel like I'm hiding something. Like I need to keep it a secret.

First day back, I had a patient with a heart issue. Maybe. Who knows. I didn't. I should have. I'm looking at the EKG, the family is asking me what's going on. And I couldn't give them an answer. I got the resident to take a look, but by then the family was complaining to the attending that the only people they're seeing are med students and why can't they have a real doctor. They think I'm a med student. Of course, I would think I was a med student too. After two weeks away I'm rusty. Slow. I got out late, I was behind on the paperwork, and I still can't read an EKG. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow is 7 hours away. All that sleep I banked over the vacation-- am I going to lose it already? Am I already going to fall behind? Sleep. Now. Must. No TV. The Big Bang Theory can wait until tomorrow.


  1. Your blog is amazing...Never lose that ability to ask. I have a simple job and after vacation I to am so rusty as to how I did things before.

  2. Good luck with that and im sure youll be able to read them sooner rather than later

  3. I can't read them either! I have been a PA-C for 18 years, and have tried and tried to learn. Everyone calls me a walking textbook because they think I am so brilliant in other medical regards. I feel like someone hiding their illiteracy. I wish you luck.