EKG Technician Career Guide

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What Is a EKG Technician?

A Telemetry Tech is an allied health professional who specializes in monitoring the electrical system within the heart using telemetry equipment. The human heart generates impulses and conducts electricity at different speeds, which allows for the coordinated beating of different parts of the heart. A telemetry tech applies equipment and monitors the system readouts to track the heart's electrical activity.

These professionals are also known as monitoring techs or EKG techs and are trained to recognize normal and abnormal heart rhythms. Their expertise helps doctors diagnose and treat various cardiac conditions.

What Does a EKG Technician Do?

Telemetry techs, or EKG techs, are trained to interpret heart rhythms on a telemetry unit at a hospital or at remote cardiac monitoring facilities. They interpret EKG monitoring in order to recognize abnormal rhythms that indicate potential health problems.

There is an important distinction between an EKG and telemetry. Telemetry is a general term for monitoring electrical signals from the heart, while an EKG test assesses specific data to determine heart rhythm, orientation, muscle thickening, and evidence of blood flow. All EKGs fall under the category of telemetry testing, but not all telemetry testing is an EKG.

Telemetry techs are responsible for communicating directly with patient caregivers anytime a potentially life-threatening rhythm appears. Daily duties and responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining the operation of the monitoring station and software system
  • Independently observing and interpreting cardiac electrical activity
  • Administering multi-setting EKG’s with proper electrode placement
  • Implementing and reviewing cardiac monitoring orders
  • Reporting changes clearly and appropriately to the healthcare team
  • Documenting all EKG results in patient records
  • Operating, cleaning, and troubleshooting the electrocardiogram equipment

How Do You Become a EKG Technician?

Candidates interested in becoming a telemetry tech can begin by including science, math, and technology skills in their high school curriculum. It is helpful to have healthcare volunteer hours as well. Once they have their high school diploma or GED, they can find telemetry training programs to enroll in. These can be found at vocational schools, community colleges, and through professional groups.

FAQs About EKG Technicians

What skills does a EKG Technician need?

Telemetry techs may work directly with patients or at remote monitoring locations. Therefore, the skills needed can vary slightly. An EKG tech must have strong communication skills to communicate with the healthcare team and with patients. Telemetry techs encounter a variety of situations each day and must be flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.

  • Analytical skills are necessary for data interpretation and decision making
  • Blood pressure and vital signs are often measured before, during, or after an electrocardiogram
  • Medical terminology and documentation skills are required to communicate to the healthcare team and document the results of the telemetry tests
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Comprehensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology for correct placement of electrodes and patient assessment

Work Settings For a EKG Technician

Telemetry techs work alongside the healthcare team in the cardiac unit to ensure patients receive the highest quality care. They have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including inpatient or outpatient hospital settings, private practices, research facilities, government agencies, and remote monitoring facilities.

Common Cases a EKG Technician Encounters

EKG techs spend their day monitoring the electrical activity of the heart. Depending on the work setting, an EKG may be ordered to diagnose chest pain, preventively before an athletic event, or as part of a physical examination. Telemetry techs are commonly part of a cardiac care unit where they may encounter some of the following common health issues:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Angina
  • Heart failure
  • Valve disease
  • Congenital or inherited heart conditions

How To Advance Your Career as a EKG Technician?

Telemetry techs can choose to pursue specialized training in electrophysiology, cardiac catheterization, cardiac sonography, or vascular ultrasound. This positions the tech for career advancement and increases their salary potential. Techs can also choose to leverage their experience to explore opportunities in other healthcare fields, such as nursing, respiratory therapy, or occupational or physical therapy assistants.

Education Requirements & Helpful Certifications for a EKG Technician

Candidates who choose to complete coursework through a professional organization, such as the National Telemetry Association (NTA), may have an advantage since the association also administers the certification exam. NTA programs and certifications are backed by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), which ensures the program meets specific standards.

While no certification is currently required to be a telemetry tech, certification increases potential for employment and career advancement, as it demonstrates competency in the field and commitment to excellence. Certification through NTA must be renewed every two years and requires continuing education hours for renewal.

Specialty Organizations & Communities for a EKG Technician

National Telemetry Association (NTA): The organization promotes health and safety by maintaining high standards of practice. They provide education and national certification that demonstrates a technician's competence.

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