The number of people needing short and long-term care for heart disease has increased dramatically in the United States over the past several years because of the growing population, retiring Baby Boomers, expansion of federal healthcare coverage, and the widespread adoption of sedentary lifestyles. Trends like these have placed a tremendous amount of pressure on the medical system and have forced facility administrators to become more aggressive about recruiting top talent in both licensed and unlicensed professions. While public health officials are very concerned about the increased prevalence of diseases of the heart, those who are thinking about advancing their career as an unlicensed provider in a cardiac care unit stand to benefit by positioning themselves appropriately.
Cardiovascular and coronary artery disease have become top contributors to morbidity and mortality in the US with illnesses related to these conditions directly resulting in around 25% of all deaths each year. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that over 700,000 people suffer from a major heart attack annually. These statistics are alarming and shed light on the rapid acceleration in demand for cardiac care that has been occurring. In an effort to provide high quality care to patients, many facilities have started using a remote monitoring technology known as telemetry. Equipment used for telemetry resembles that of an electrocardiogram except that it allows for the transmission of signals from a transmitter to a receiver that is located in another room contained within the facility or setup in another state or country. Nurses and technicians generally share the responsibility for watching patients as they engage in resting and active behavior, but it is becoming more common for organizations to hire dedicated technicians who do nothing but observe patients in the monitoring unit.
In most states, a telemetry technician is not required to become licensed in order to begin working in a monitoring unit as long as they are supervised by a licensed nurse or physician. The fact that this career path is subject to few practice regulations means that it is easier for applicants to find work without the completion of a college degree or a lengthy training program. In fact, most employers do not require a technician to have a degree and they are often able to provide the necessary training in-house. While it is possible for applicants to secure a job without having worked in patient care before, administrators do prefer to hire individuals who have a couple years of experience in a general area of practice like that of medical assistant or nurse aide. These types of positions allow unlicensed personnel to master the basics of providing high quality care while demonstrating a solid work ethic and a passion for patient care.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cardiovascular technologist in the United States can expect to earn around $55,000 per year with the lowest ten percent taking home $28,000 per year and the highest ten percent being paid $85,000 per year. Obviously, there are several different factors that can influence the compensation package and individuals should carefully consider their education, training, certification, and experience when attempting to establish an informed telemetry technician salary projection. In most cases, those who are just starting out in the profession and who have no prior patient care experience can expect to earn less while those who have worked in the industry for several years can expect to be paid more. This happens because experienced employees do not require as much training and they tend to make fewer mistakes.
A career as a telemetry or EKG technician is an excellent employment decision for those who are well-suited to working in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful medical setting. Federal statistics indicate that the field is expected to grow by thirty percent over the next ten years as more and more people flood into the healthcare system. This trend will lead to far more employment options and gradually increasing levels of pay for those who take the time to invest some time and effort in acquiring the education, training, and certification they need to enter the specialty.
Cardiac care is an important branch of the medical system that manages patients who suffer from many different types of heart disease. One of the services that is offered in most cardiovascular departments is known as telemetry and it allows healthcare providers to observe the electrical activity of a patient’s heart from a remote location. Monitoring centers can be setup within the treatment facility or they may be located in different states or countries. While it used to be common for medical establishments to manage their own monitoring centers, it has become increasingly popular to outsource this activity to an independent company that is located a significant distance away. When something of concern is seen by the person at the virtual monitoring center, personnel within the facility providing treatment are told about the problem so that they can address it in a timely and effective fashion. Since demand for cardiac care has been increasing, the need for unlicensed telemetry technicians has been going up.
Although it is possible to enter this specialty with nothing more than a high school diploma or GED, the applicant who incorporates certain elements into their resume will be better able to stand out from the competition and is far more likely to get hired. One of the most important attributes of a good applicant in the healthcare industry is personality traits. Individuals who are compassionate, reliable, empathetic, caring, capable of working with others, and willing to receive instruction tend to make the best types of employees. Administrators know how important it is to hire people who have the appropriate character qualities and they will often pass over individuals who have more credentials in order to retain people who seem to be a better fit for the department due to their personality. Applicants who lack credentials may want to think about emphasizing their strong character qualities during the interview process.
Some of the other important elements of the resume that could help secure employment include things like education, training, certification, and experience. While a technician in this specialty is generally not expected to complete a four-year college degree, some schooling beyond the high school level may be viewed favorably because it shows that an applicant can stick with a task until it is completed. Several of the community colleges and vocational schools operating in the US offer programs for members of the allied health community and may even have opportunities for those in the cardiac care specialty. Before enrolling in one of these programs, individuals are encouraged to contact potential employers to see if they recognize and accept the credentials issued by a particular educational institution.
In addition to completing some form of educational program, those who want to work in cardiovascular care might also need to research the types of training opportunities available in their area. Many of the departments providing diagnostic and therapeutic heart services in the US have developed their own in-house training programs that must be completed by employees before they are allowed to provide any amount of direct care to patients. While some colleges and universities do offer training for technicians, it is critical that individuals make sure a specific program has been approved by employers before they enroll in classes. This approach can save a significant amount of time and money.
Previous patient care experience is commonly included as a prerequisite for employment in a specialized area of practice such as cardiac care because it allows individuals to learn the fundamentals of delivering care in a general area of practice before transitioning to a specialized department where patients often suffer from high risk medical conditions. A couple of years of employment as a medical assistant, nurse aide, or something similar is an important period of time that allows individuals to acquire some form of credentialing while gaining exposure to many different areas of specialty practice. In addition, there may be an opportunity as a generalist to take a TELEMETRY CERTIFICATION exam offered through the Association of Critical Care Nurses, National Healthcareer Association, or Cardiovascular Credentialing International. This type of credential demonstrates an applicant’s knowledge and is viewed favorably by employers.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in healthcare today. The test is popular because it offers a rapid way of observing the electrical activity of the heart making it one of the first procedures that is performed when a patient enters the medical system. In fact, the procedure is used so often that most facilities hire individuals who are solely responsible for administering the test along with other cardiac studies. Those who plan to pursue a career in this profession will need to have a basic understanding of the effects that different diseases such as atrial fibrillation can have on an ECG tracing and will be expected to ensure that the test results are high quality before passing them on.
In order to understand the electrocardiogram changes seen in cases of atrial fibrillation, it is important to briefly review the structure of the human heart. The standard heart is constructed of four chambers that include two atria and two ventricles. The right and left atrium are located above the ventricles and are responsible for moving blood into the ventricles prior to their contraction. To ensure that the atria contract before the ventricles, the heart was designed with a special area of nerve fibers known as the sinoatrial node that is located near the top of the right atrium. This node produces electrical signals that travel down the heart causing contraction of cardiac cells as it passes. In a healthy heart, the contractile stimuli are produced at regular and repeating intervals.
Individuals who suffer from atrial fibrillation experience rapid and irregular atrial contractions caused by electrical stimuli that propagate from an area of tissue near the pulmonary veins. These signals are not regulated by the sinoatrial node and are allowed to travel around the atria in an uncoordinated fashion. A series of re-entry circuits sustain the ectopic signals over long periods of time. In most situations, the signals are not allowed to enter the ventricles where they would otherwise cause serious conditions like ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation. Since the ventricles are instrumental in the circulation of blood in the body, any form of electrical abnormality in these chambers can have profound and life-threatening consequences. Because most atrial fibrillation patients do not experience ventricular abnormalities, they may not even realize that they have condition until it is discovered incidental to other concerns.
When it comes to managing patients who have this condition, the EKG technician needs to understand the basics of the disease and the common elements seen on an electrocardiogram. The first thing that the technician might see is a loss of P waves. These components of the ECG represent the depolarization and contraction of the atria. Because fibrillation causes the chambers to contract in an irregular manner, the P waves are often absent. Other changes could include things like fibrillatory waves, QRS complex abnormalities, ventricular rhythm variations, the loss of an isoelectric baseline, and much more. While some facilities only expect technicians to administer the exam and pass the results on to other licensed providers, several require unlicensed professionals to highlight changes in waveforms in addition to the routine quality assurance measures that are taken.
It is important for unlicensed providers to understand that their job is to administer exams and perform a basic review of the results. In-depth medical analysis of the atrial fibrillation ECG along with diagnosing patients and developing treatment plans is the responsibility of licensed personnel such as nurses and physicians. Most administrators will address this issue during the training and orientation period. Also, a facility will typically provide the knowledge and skills needed to become successful through instruction and direct supervision that is delivered following the initial interview and hiring phase.
There are several factors to consider when evaluating and treating patients who have heart conditions and it is not uncommon for doctors to order other tests in addition to the electrocardiogram. Individuals who work in this profession may need to become skilled at administering and providing an initial quality review of these other procedures. Fortunately, most of the knowledge and skills needed to become successful as a technician are covered in detail during the training and certification process. Those who would like to learn more about the profession are encouraged to visit http://www.ekgtechniciansalary.org/ where they will find information on several relevant topics.
- A decrease in RBC mass that can be detected by [Hb], hematocrit, and RBC count
- Adult males: Hb <130g/L or Hct <0.41
- Adult female: Hb <120 g/L or Hct < 0.36
- Anemia symptoms – fatigue, malaise, weakness, dyspnea, decreased exercise tolerance, palpitations, h/a, dizziness, tinnitus, syncope
- Acute / chronic, bleeding, systemic illness
- diet, alcohol, family hx
- Menstural hx: menorrhagia, menometrorrhagia, dysfunctional uterine bleeding
- r/o pancytopenia – recurrent infection, mucosal bleeding / easy bruising
- HEENT: pallor in mucous membranes and conjunctiva at Hb <90
- Ocular bruits at Hb <55, angular chelosis, jaundice
- Cardiac: tachycardia, orthostatic HoTN, systolic flow murmur, wide pulse pressure, CHF
- Dermatologic: pallor in palmar skin crease Hb<75, jaundice (hemolysis), nail changes, glossitis
- CBC, reticulocyte count, blood film
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