Amanda Thomas Apr 13, 2024

Imagine your heart telling a story, not with words, but with waves — rhythmic, dynamic, and telling tales of its health.

That’s what the PQRST wave in an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) reading does!

This fascinating wave pattern is the heart’s unique signature, akin to an intimate Morse code, revealing crucial information about your cardiovascular well-being. In this article, we’ll explore the PQRST wave in detail and learn how to analyze it.

Jump to Sections

  1. What Is a Normal EKG Rhythm Strip?
  2. What Are the 4 Types of Waves Seen in an EKG?
  3. How Is PQRST Determined?
  4. How to Analyze a PQRST EKG Strip?

What Is a Normal EKG Rhythm Strip?

Before delving into the specifics of the PQRST wave, let’s first understand what constitutes a normal EKG rhythm strip. 

An EKG rhythm strip is a graphical representation of the heart’s electrical activity over a period of time. It consists of several waves and intervals that reflect different phases of the cardiac cycle. 

In a normal EKG rhythm strip, these waves and intervals have specific measurements and ratios, indicating that the heart is functioning properly. Any deviations from these norms can signal potential issues with the heart’s electrical system.

What Are the 4 Types of Waves Seen in an EKG?

In an EKG, you can see four main types of waves: the P-wave, QRS complex, ST segment, and T-wave.

Each wave plays a vital role in assessing cardiac health and finding abnormalities.


The P-wave represents atrial depolarization, which signifies the contraction of the atria. It appears as a small, upright deflection before the QRS complex.

QRS Complex

The QRS complex reflects ventricular depolarization, indicating the contraction of the ventricles. It consists of three distinct deflections: the Q-wave, R-wave, and S-wave.

ST Segment

The ST segment is the flat, isoelectric section between the QRS complex and the T-wave. It represents the early part of ventricular repolarization.


The T-wave represents ventricular repolarization, signifying the recovery of the ventricles. It appears as a rounded, upright deflection following the ST segment.

How Is PQRST Determined?

You can figure out the PQRST sequence by analyzing the timing, morphology, and duration of each wave and interval on the EKG rhythm strip. Understanding the normal range for each part is essential for identifying deviations from the norm.

How to Analyze a PQRST EKG Strip?

To analyze a PQRST EKG strip, follow this five-step system.

  1. Confirm if there are any P waves. If P waves are present, move on to the next step.
  1. Highlight any presence of QRS waves: The QRS complex should be narrow, lasting less than 0.12 seconds.
  1. Check the PR interval. The PR interval measures the time between atrial depolarization and ventricular depolarization. The normal range is 0.12-0.20 seconds.
  1. Calculate the rate (beats per minute): Count the number of R waves in a six-second strip and multiply by 10.
  1. Classify a rhythm: Determine if the rhythm is regular or irregular.

Check out this video where Nurse Mike explains how to interpret an EKG wave in 15 seconds or less.

Have Nursing Questions and Need Answers? We can help!

If you’re struggling with understanding complex nursing topics like PQRST wave and EKG interpretation, SimpleNursing can help.

Our comprehensive online platform makes learning easy and accessible. From animated videos and practice questions to study guides and mnemonics, we have everything you need to succeed in nursing school. Get a taste of what we have to offer with our EKG practice questions

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