Become a Telemetry Technician

Learn how to become a telemetry or EKG technician. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in the telemetry field.

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Should I Become a Telemetry Technician?

Also known as cardiovascular technologists and technicians (EKG technicians), these professionals are responsible for preparing, using, and maintaining medical imaging technology machines. These monitoring machines, such as the electrocardiogram (EKG), vascular sonographers and the holter monitors, are some of the imaging technology equipment that assist doctors in diagnosing ailments related to the heart or blood vessels. Telemetry technicians look for abnormal heart rhythms such as arrhythmia and can interpret and assess imaging data, as well as implement doctor orders for patient testing. Many work hours might be spent standing, and techs may need to lift or turn patients.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level College degree is not required but may be preferred by some employers; high school diploma or the equivalency is required
Licensure and/or Certification Most common required certifications preferred are Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) and Basic Life Support Certificate (BLS)
Experience 1-2 years of experience
Key Skills Knowledgeable in the anatomy of the heart, excellent interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with patients and their families, proficient in medical terminology, experienced in using various medical imaging technology machines; competence in medical software programs; 12-lead placement procedures in EKT and EKG strip analysis, echocardiography, patient record keeping; able to work in groups, emphasis on accuracy, sensitivity towards patients
Salary (May 2014) $67,530/year (Median salary for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers)

Source: U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn High School Diploma or Equivalency

A completion of high school diploma or equivalency is required for this career. One year certificates are typically offered by colleges and hospitals. Employers may prefer candidates with postsecondary degrees, such as an associate's degree or bachelor's degree.

Success Tips:

  • Take a biology course. This class provides students with essential knowledge about how cells, organs and tissues function. It can also help them grasp a fundamental knowledge of how body systems work.
  • Take a psychology class. Students who take psychology classes acquire a foundational knowledge about human behavior. Understanding human behavior can help students acquire an in-depth knowledge of the importance of sensitivity when dealing with patients and their families.
  • Be a hospital volunteer. Employers will always prefer candidates who have had experience working in a medical environment. Students can gain experience by volunteering in hospitals for just a few hours during the week. Duties may include escorting patients, typing reports or keeping medical records. They can also learn the basics in working with the medical software programs. Volunteering in a hospital gives the student a glimpse of patient care and the health care environment. Many hospitals facilitate high school volunteer programs. Hospitals usually require proof of immunizations. Individuals who are 18 years or older may need to submit tuberculosis (TB) tests and fingerprinting.

Step 2: Earn a Post-Secondary Degree

Although a high school diploma may be all that is required for a job as a telemetry technician, some employers may prefer candidates with an associate's or bachelor's degree. Typically post-secondary study includes clinical experience as part of the curriculum, adding an extra level of job experience and qualification.

  • Choose schools dedicated to preparing their students for the national certification exams. Schools that specifically prepare their students for certification exams would more likely have an in-depth knowledge about the components of the exam and its focus points. They may also have information on the critical questions that many exam takers usually miss. The school's information on the percentage of their students who have successfully completed the program and passed the exam is also a good deciding factor when choosing a school.
  • Choose schools that offer job placement services after graduation. Many allied health schools have career placement counselors who can assist students in acquiring employment. Career counselors are knowledgeable about the hospitals and medical offices that are known for hiring entry-level technicians. They may also be aware of any externship or internship programs available.

Step 3: Get Certified

There are many certifications that students can pursue depending on their clinical focus. The most basic certification that employers require is the BLS certification. BLS certification is also known as the CPR certification. CPR and First Aid certifications are required for health care providers and care givers or individuals who respond to emergencies. Many organizations offer CPR classes and/or BLS certification. The most common place to get this certification is from the American Red Cross, which has local chapters and offices all over the world.

The most common certifications are the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) and the Certified EKG Technician (CET). Certification courses cover the knowledge of cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, cardiac medications and cardiac stress tests. CCT and CET certification courses can be taken through many allied health schools, community colleges and universities, certain Red Cross locations or online. Programs can take about 7-10 weeks.

Success Tips:

  • Take the practice exams. When students are preparing for their national exams, it is a good idea to take the available practice exams, which are often provided by professional organizations, such as the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), on their websites. ARDMS allows students to schedule their examinations as well as take the practice exams online.
  • Acquire resources online. National organizations such as the National Health Career Association (NHANOW) also create certification and competency exams for EKG technicians. Students can acquire a copy of their manual through their schools, or they can go to the association's site directly (www.nhanow.com). The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography also helps medical professionals earn and renew their certificates (www.ardms.org).

Step 4: Consider Multiple Certifications

Many job ads require candidates to have multiple certifications. An example of a useful supplemental certification is the Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). Many allied health schools, colleges and universities offer this and other related certifications. Individuals who have knowledge in many aspects of the medical field tend to be more marketable as more opportunities for employment are available to them.

Success Tips:

  • Join professional groups. The best way to stay informed in one's profession is to join a professional group. Groups such as the Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU) and the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals are some of the groups that telemetry technicians can join. Memberships in these groups usually include receiving publications and other information about the new advances in the field.
  • Renew your licenses or certifications. EKG, ACLS, BLS and other certifications issue holders licenses to be able to perform certain medical procedures. These licenses need to be renewed. Consult with the proper accrediting organizations, current employer or the school on how often these licenses need to be renewed.
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