Telemetry nurses monitor patients who have had a cardiac-related event or are at risk of developing a cardiac complication. For example, their patients may have had a stroke, heart attack, cardiac surgery, or cardiac procedure and need observation to ensure they recuperate without incident. Telemetry nurses must maintain constant vigilance over the telemetry devices that transmit the patient’s EKG so they can quickly intervene if an emergency occurs.
Telemetry nurses work in the step-down units where patients are transferred after being treated in the CCU or ICU. Patients are hooked up to the telemetry monitors that transmit their cardiac rhythm to a central station. Some telemetry devices also track oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
Telemetry nurses must quickly determine if they observe a life-threatening cardiac rhythm and be ready to perform life saving action if needed. They are experts at determining whether a patient needs immediate treatment or if a rhythm pattern should just be observed and reported to the cardiac team.
Telemetry nurses also attend to their patients’ other medical needs and support their psychological and emotional needs, which can affect a person’s heart function.
Telemetry nurses often receive advanced training to improve their skills. Some become certified or clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). Others become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) as cardiac nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists (CNSs).
Telemetry nurses perform some of the same activities as other nurses, but they put primary focus on the cardiac status of their patients. Depending on the unit, general activities may include:
- Taking patient histories and documenting care
- Recording vital signs and closely monitoring EKG rhythms strips
- Administering medications and running IV drips
- Doing physical exams, including listening to heart sounds
- Monitoring lab results and response to therapy
- Responding quickly to any life-threatening cardiac event
- Alerting the medical team to any significant changes that need attention
In outpatient settings, where monitoring is done remotely, telemetry nurses track the EKG rhythms, call patients to check their status, and record and report their progress to the physician.
Telemetry nurses require rapid EKG interpretation skills, critical thinking skills, and the ability to stay calm and organized during emergencies when a patient is having a cardiac event.
At the same time, telemetry nurses need a solid foundation of basic medical conditions as many patients have comorbidities that may complicate their recovery.
Telemetry nurses utilize strong teaching skills to instruct families and patients on lifestyle practices to reduce their risk of cardiac complications.