We checked whether psychiatric junior doctors could identify common electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities. Participants were directly approached at three London sites during induction or teaching programmes.
The survey had a total response rate of 65% (36/55). Psychiatry junior doctors displayed an overall success rate of 97% in detecting whether an ECG is grossly abnormal, but were much less competent in specifying exact ECG diagnoses (success rate of 41%). Accuracy rates for some diagnoses (e.g. paced rhythm) fell to as low as 11%. General practitioners performed no better than psychiatry trainees.
There is little consensus about minimum acceptable standards in medical skills such as ECG reporting in junior doctors. These competencies are generally ignored in new curriculums. Questions regarding the appropriate remit of psychiatry doctors in this area are raised and the need for more monitoring and education of these skills is queried.
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