Telemetry Unit: A Comprehensive Guide

Jan 19, 2023
Alexandra Sani, RN, BSN

On a telemetry unit, patient’s undergo continuous electronic monitoring. Working on this type of unit offers a balance between connecting with your patients and assessing critical data transmitted via technology. To me, this balance was a perk of being a telemetry nurse- I loved getting to talk with my patients as well as providing technical expertise in this blended specialty. Read on to learn more about telemetry unit specifics, diagnoses on a telemetry unit, patient population and the day to day shift of a telemetry nurse!

What is a Telemetry Unit in a hospital?

A telemetry unit is a floor in a hospital where patients undergo continuous cardiac monitoring. Electronic signals are transmitted from the electrodes and leads on a patient to a central monitor where they are stored and interpreted. Telemetry is used as an observation tool to monitor cardiac rhythm and rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. This technology allows patients to be mobile while being monitored, rather than being restricted by a bedside cardiac monitor.

What types of cases are covered in a Telemetry Unit?

A telemetry nurse monitors patients for cardiac related events. Common issues seen on a telemetry unit include arrhythmias, chest pain and myocardial ischemia. Patients who have undergone cardiac surgery are monitored with telemetry as well. They may also monitor patients who have experienced unexplained fainting or other neurological symptoms in order to rule out cardiac arrhythmias. A telemetry nurse is specialized in cardiac care but may also care for neurological patients or patients who have comorbidities in addition to their need to be monitored via telemetry.

What types of patients are cared for in a Telemetry Unit?

The patients on a Telemetry unit typically have a cardiac condition such as heart failure, heart disease and complications of cardiac issues. Those monitored post cardiac procedure may have had a stent inserted, a pacemaker placed, or coronary bypass surgery. It is common for patients who have hypertension and those who have had a stroke to be on telemetry as well. The patient ratio on a telemetry unit is typically 1:4, but this can vary based on the state that you are working in. Telemetry patients are often on a specified telemetry unit but can also be on a progressive care unit in the hospital and are less critical than those in an intensive care unit. They may have been downgraded from an intensive care unit once stabilized, but still require close monitoring. 

What does a Telemetry Unit nurse do?

A telemetry nurse rises to the challenge of an emergency and simultaneously remains calm and flexible. Specialized training is required to use the sophisticated equipment and remote monitoring. A telemetry nurse’s duties during their shift includes analyzing and interpreting cardiac strips in addition to their physical assessments and bedside care. The cardiac strip is measured by the nurse per the unit policy, which is usually at least once per shift. Quick rhythm interpretation is critical to working on a telemetry unit. The nurses are able to immediately respond to emergencies as a telemetry monitor screen showing all of the patients’ cardiac rhythms is often located at the nurses station. This ensures multiple medical personnel can monitor the strips in real time and be ready to react. Frequent collaboration with the interdisciplinary team is important as the telemetry nurse may be first to discover changes and deteriorating conditions. Cardiac medications are administered on this type of floor and may include IV medications with titration. Education to patients and families on this unit is vital; often modifiable risk factors need addressed and education provided on lifestyle changes to promote health upon discharge and at home. Check out our Specialty Guide on Telemetry Nursing to learn more.  

Are you looking for a telemetry travel position? Create a Trusted profile and be sure to set your match filters to telemetry to see what positions are available! To help get you submitted for an open position right away, remember to add any telemetry work experience to your profile and upload your certifications, such as ACLS!