Introduction: Emergency physicians are interrupted during patient care with such tasks as reading electrocardiograms (ECGs). This phenomenon is known as task-switching which may be a teachable skill. Our objective was to evaluate the potential of a video game for simulating the cognitive demands required of task-switching.
Methods: Emergency medicine residents took a pretest on ECG interpretation and then a posttest while attending to a video game, Asteroids®.
Results: The 35 residents (63%) who participated, scored worse on the ECG posttest then they did on the pretest (p<.001; effect size=1.14). There were no differences between genders or training level.
Conclusion: Interpreting ECGs while playing the Asteroids® game significantly lowered ECG interpretation scores. This shows the potential of this activity for training residents in task-switching ability. The next phase of research will test whether ECG reading performance while task-switching improves with practice.