My IPE (Integrated Practice Experience) and labs have been amazing experiences so far. Labs occur before IPE blocks are scheduled so for my first lab block, I focused on ECGs. During labs I got to perform ECGs, learn and practice proper lead placements, along with specialty leads and ECG interpretation among other things. The competencies expected of a Cardiology Technologist were put into practice and by the end of the lab session; I was expected to master the competencies. Instructors worked with everyone, especially on weak areas to ensure that the competencies were learned and mastered.
My role as a student was to learn and practice as much as possible to be able to meet all competency requirements and gain the confidence and experience in recording an artifact free ECG and interpreting it. The key focus on ECG interpretation was to improve the speed and accuracy of interpretation over time. During labs all the criteria for normal and abnormal ECGs came into play as we looked at several ECG samples. I was able to practice ECGs on my classmates and then on volunteers who came in to provide more of a realistic situation. In general labs gave me my initial experience and a stress free environment to practice and experience what it will be like in the field. I got the chance to meet my classmates because we all came from various locations on the east coast.
At an IPE, under supervision of a preceptor, you have the opportunity to practice what you’ve learned in class. It puts you in the workplace giving you real life experience. You have the opportunity to observe those in the field and then once comfortable, you can take over and practice.
My first IPE was in the Cardiology Department and I spent three days in outpatients observing and performing ECGs. It was a nail biting experience because I now had to work with patients. They were not volunteers but actual patients! How will they react to me? Will I remember what questions to ask? Will I have the correct lead placements? What if I see something abnormal on the ECG? Will I forget to verify the patient ID? All of these and lots more were running through my head.
During my IPE time I learned how to interact, confirm patient history, ensure proper lead placements, observe for abnormalities and ensure an artifact free reading just to name a few. I found interacting with the cardiologist and staff most rewarding because I felt the sense of kinship and togetherness at my location. Everyone loved their job and they had wonderful personalities – each one being different.
I learned the expectations of the department and the importance of accuracy and professionalism. On my first day I was really nervous, but everyone re-assured me that I would be fine. I can remember clearly that when I finally made the decisions to perform my first ECG, I actually backed out because the fear of calling out the patient’s name and getting it wrong got the best of me. My preceptor at the time smiled and he said “it’s ok I’ll call them in and then you can perform the ECG”. Not once did he make me feel like I should be able to do this. He made me feel comfortable and said I’ll be fine before the day is over.
I had the opportunity to see what it was like in the emergency department and what it was like for a CT working in triage. I also performed ECGs there and witnessed a cardioversion. Being in the ER gave me the confidence that I needed because after observing the cardioversion I felt like I was ready! I saw someone’s heart being jumped start…hey calling a name became a piece of cake.
My IPE gave me hands on experience and I think it is a very beneficial component of the program because by the time preceptorship comes around, you will already know what to expect.