Heart disease has become highly prevalent in the United States and has created greater need for individuals who are qualified to provide the basic cardiac care services that do not require advanced medical education and training. Many healthcare institutions turn to unlicensed medical professionals to help manage high patient loads and to allow nurses and physicians to focus on tasks that require specialized knowledge and skills. Technicians are often hired to fill these types of positions and they represent a critical component of the delivery of care process.
An EKG technician is someone who is tasked with responsibilities such as patient education, vital sign collection, procedure preparation, cardiac monitoring, electrocardiogram administration, telemetry, quality assurance, equipment operation, and invasive procedure assistance. Some healthcare facilities also include administrative responsibilities such as new technician training, public education, and team meeting scheduling in the technician job description. Individuals are encouraged to research the tasks that they will be expected to perform prior to signing an employment contract. This approach can allow individuals to avoid opportunities that include responsibilities that the technician is not interested in performing.
The path to becoming an EKG technician is not as well-defined as that of other medical professions. In general, there are very few state and federal regulations that directly affect EKG technician education, training, and certification requirements. The fact that few regulations exist means that employers are given a lot of freedom to establish their own expectations for new employees. Those who are interested in a career as a technician should first evaluate whether or not their personality is well-suited to managing patients on a daily basis. Individuals who are genuinely interested in improving the quality of life for those who suffer from heart disease and who can handle difficult patients without becoming overwhelmed often last the longest in the industry. If you possess these character traits, then your next step should be to contact potential employers to find out what their employment standards include.
As is true with most jobs, credentials and experience weigh heavily on an employer’s decision on whom to hire. In most cases, EKG technicians have completed at least a two to four-year college degree in an allied health profession and have at least a few years of experience providing direct patient care. Facility administrators often prefer to hire those who have formal education and experience because they know that those individuals understand what patient care involves and are more likely to possess the knowledge and skills that they will need to work in a variety of different healthcare settings. While prior education and experience are not always required, acquiring some amount of both will improve an individual’s chances of obtaining employment.
One of the most common routes into the EKG technician profession is through prior education and experience as a radiology technician or medical assistant. There are many college programs that are designed to prepare individuals for a career in either of these fields. In addition, these opportunities provide a lot of experience with patient care and require that professional credentials be obtained. The radiology department works closely with the cardiovascular department and often acts as a career avenue for those who wish to transition into cardiac care. In general, those who move from radiology to cardiology will be required to complete a four to six-week EKG technician training program followed by the completion of a certification exam that is specific to the cardiovascular industry.
Individuals who find patient care careers appealing can improve their chances of finding employment by taking courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics while in high school and college. These courses are important for all medical professions and provide the foundation upon which more technical courses are built. In addition, aspiring technicians can begin gaining experience in the industry through job shadowing, volunteer, and part-time employment opportunities that exist in local clinics and hospitals. These experiences can help guide individuals toward a profession that is suitable to their personality and may even lead to offers for employment.