Posted on Apr 17, 2018

Student Nurse Lauded for Catching Irregular Heart Rhythm

Student Nurse Lauded for Catching Irregular Heart Rhythm

USF College of Nursing student Laura McKnight knew reading heart rhythms was not one of her strengths. So when she started her final preceptorship at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, she made sure to seek extra help from her mentor.

McKnight said she and her preceptor Alyssa Klein, RN, would sit and stare at heart monitors to practice reading the heart beats — where the slightest irregularity could be a sign of a serious heart condition.

That additional practice paid off a few months ago when McKnight was working a shift in the emergency department at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. A patient had come into the hospital complaining of chest pain, but her initial electrocardiogram (EKG) was normal.

But when McKnight happened to look over at the patient’s heart monitor, the heart rhythms looked slightly elevated.

“I noticed the change. I wasn’t sure if it was anything. I kind of thought about not saying anything, because I didn’t want to look dumb, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said.

It turned out her instincts were correct. The spike in the patient’s EKG rhythm led doctors to implement a specific protocol that found the patient had a 100 percent blocked right coronary artery.

 McKnight credits her preceptor for instilling in her the importance of speaking up.

“She’s always pushed me to ask questions, no matter what,” McKnight said. “That has really helped. I was thinking I don’t want to look stupid if I’m wrong, but it’s better to be wrong than not say anything.”

Liz Lavelle, RN, CEN, TCRN, EMT-P, the RN IV clinical coordinator in the emergency department at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, said the student nurse should be commended for recognizing the significant change in the EKG rhythm and realizing it could be more serious.

“Laura McKnight deserves a round of applause,” Lavelle wrote. “She played an important part in potentially saving a patient.”

Lavelle said once the elevated heart rhythm was recognized, the patient was taken to the catheterization laboratory where doctors successfully treated her blocked artery.

McKnight, who graduates next month, said she is hoping to land a nursing job in an area hospital’s emergency department.

“I feel like nursing is for me. I really like the ER. I really like how fast it is, and how much you get to do as a nurse,” she said.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing