Nurse-initiated defibrillation: are nurses confident enough?

Emerg Med J. 2012 Jan;29(1):24-7. doi: 10.1136/emj.2009.084848. Epub 2010 Dec 23.


Objectives: To determine the capability of nurses to identify ventricular fibrillation (VF) and ventricular tachycardia (VT) rhythms on an ECG and carry out subsequent defibrillation on their own as soon as they identify and confirm cardiac arrest.

Methods: This was a prospective cohort study to determine the capability of emergency department (ED) nurses to recognise VF or pulseless VT correctly and their willingness to perform defibrillation immediately in an ED of a teaching hospital in Hong Kong. A questionnaire was completed before and after a teaching session focusing on the identification of rhythms in cardiac arrest and defibrillation skills. Correct answers for both ECG interpretation and defibrillation decisions scored one point for each question. The differences in mean scores between the pre-teaching and post-teaching questionnaires of all nurses were calculated.

Results: 51 pre-teaching and 43 post-teaching questionnaires were collected. There were no statistically significant changes in ECG scores after teaching. For defibrillation scores, there was an overall improvement in the defibrillation decision (absolute mean difference 0.42, p=0.014). Performance was also improved by the teaching (absolute mean difference 0.465, p=0.046), reflected by the combination of both scores. Two-thirds (67%) of nurses became more confident in managing patients with shockable rhythms.

Conclusion: Nurses improve in defibrillation decision-making skills and confidence after appropriate brief, focused in-house training.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / education
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / nursing
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Electric Countershock / nursing*
  • Electrocardiography / nursing
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Heart Arrest* / diagnosis
  • Heart Arrest* / therapy
  • Hong Kong
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital* / education
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / diagnosis*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / nursing