Become an EKG Assistant: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an EKG assistant. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an EKG assistant.

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Should I Become an EKG Assistant?

An EKG assistant, also called an EKG technician, is a cardiovascular professional who conducts tests on patients' hearts and their peripheral blood vessels using an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. Some of the job duties of an EKG assistant include taking patient histories, explaining procedures to patients, attaching electrodes to patients, and monitoring patients during the test. An EKG assistant also maintains equipment and must make adjustments and small repairs.

EKG assistants may work at hospitals, physician offices, or medical laboratories. They often spend several hours a day on their feet and may need the physical strength to lift patients. It is common for these professionals to work weekend, overnight, and holiday shifts; EKG test results may be needed at any hour.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma, though formal post secondary education may be preferred or required
Degree Field EKG technician, EKG technology or similar
Experience At least 6 months of experience preferred
Licensure and Certification Certification may be required by employer
Key Skills Ability to operate complex diagnostic machinery, specialized medical software, familiarity with EKG, Holter Monitor, ultrasound equipment
Salary (2015) $54,880 per year (Median salary for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians, which include EKG assistants)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, National Healthcareer Association

Steps to Become an EKG Assistant

What steps do I need to take to become an EKG Assistant?

Step 1: Earn Your CPR or Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification

Most employers require an EKG assistant to become certified to administer CPR or BLS. This designation is earned through the American Red Cross, and it usually consists of a one- or two-day class. CPR certification may also be available through an EKG program at a college or vocational school.

Step 2: Obtain Formal Education

While only a high school diploma is required, some employers will substitute 1-year certification programs at a community college for on-the-job training. These programs include specific training in EKG machines, medical terminology, EKG interpretation, and recognizing artifacts. Additionally, labs in 12-lead and stress testing are also included.

You will want to complete clinical training. Clinical EKG training allows students to practice placing EKG electrodes and performing EKGs in a real-world setting. This is typically a requirement for certification.

Step 3: Gain On-the-Job Training

EKG technicians typically complete four to six weeks of on-the-job training working with the EKG machine and patients. They are responsible for performing 12 lead EKGs, applying and removing Holter monitors, scheduling testing, and reporting abnormal deviations. They learn to apply the testing strips, attach electrodes, monitor patients safely and comfort, maintain a clean work environment, and process paper work. Adjusting controls and maintaining equipment is also included in the training.

Step 4: Earn Your Certification

Employers may require EKG assistants to earn certification, such as the EKG Technician certification offered through the National Healthcareer Association. To earn this certification, applicants must have a high school diploma and complete one year of work experience or training, as well as pass an exam.

Step 5: Pursue Additional Education

EKG techs who learn related skills in diagnostic medical sonography or similar fields may benefit from new job opportunities. To become a diagnostic medical sonographer, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree is typically required.

EKG assistants are cardiovascular professionals who conduct tests on patients' hearts and their peripheral blood vessels. They have high school diplomas, postsecondary education or training, and expertise using complex diagnostics machinery and specialized medical software. And they earn a median annual salary of $54,880.

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