In 2019, the average annual salary for cardiovascular technicians was $68,750. Moreover, job opportunities are expected to grow by 12% in the next 10 years.
Telemetry is an exciting and rewarding field in cardiovascular medicine. To enjoy its benefits, you need to know more about telemetry. You also need to know how to become a telemetry technician.
Just what is telemetry? What are the educational requirements for telemetry technicians? Where can you learn the necessary skills? Do you need to be certified?
Find answers to these questions and more in this helpful guide.
What Is Telemetry?
Before choosing a career as a telemetry technician, it’s important to define telemetry. It’s also important to understand what the job of a telemetry technician entails.
The telemetry definition speaks to the goal and method of a technician’s work. The goal of telemetry is to measure and track a patient’s vital signs. The prefix “tele” highlights the use of technology to record these measurements.
In hospitals, telemetry units use trained technicians to continuously watch patients’ vitals.
In outpatient settings, telemetry technicians conduct and interpret diagnostic tests. Some telemetry technicians work remotely. They interpret data sent to them by other healthcare professionals.
Telemetry technicians most frequently work with electrocardiogram (ECG) equipment. ECG machines record the heart’s electrical activity. Yet telemetry technicians use a range of equipment and measures.
Common measures of interest to telemetry monitoring technicians include:
- Heart rate and rhythm
- Blood pressure
- Respiration rate
- Oxygen saturation
Even subtle irregularities in these measures can reveal changes in a patient’s condition. Telemetry technicians are trained to recognize these sometimes subtle changes.
How to Become a Telemetry Technician
Telemetry technicians need certain skills and training. Becoming certified as a telemetry technician can make your expertise stand out. In fact, most potential employers hire only certified telemetry technicians.
Telemetry technicians use technology constantly. This means that they must be comfortable working with complex machines and instruments.
Reading and interpreting data from these machines also requires great attention to detail. Meanwhile, sharing results with other providers and with patients requires strong communication skills.
Interpersonal skills enhance these interactions, which can often occur in stressful situations. In these situations, you’ll also be working with patients’ private information. This means that a commitment to confidentiality and professional ethics is key.
Finally, telemetry technicians must be physically capable of standing for long periods. They must also be able to maneuver heavy equipment and patients. Besides strength, they must exhibit good hand-eye coordination to achieve accurate measurements.
To begin training as a telemetry technician, you’ll need at least a high school diploma or GED. A strong background in math, science, and technology is important. This coursework positions telemetry candidates well for their post-secondary studies.
After high school, you’ll need to complete a telemetry training program. These programs range in length from a few months to about a year.
Community colleges, vocational schools, and professional groups offer programs for aspiring telemetry technicians. The National Telemetry Association (NTA) is a leading professional group for telemetry technicians.
Completing coursework through a professional association like the NTA has several advantages. First, you can complete many of these programs online and at your own pace.
The NTA also administers the certification exam for telemetry, meaning that your coursework is designed specifically to prepare you for this rigorous exam.
Furthermore, NTA’s offerings—from coursework to exam—are backed by its ICE membership. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) establishes standards and accredits voluntary certification programs for healthcare workers.
Finally, NTA programs are flexible enough to fit any career path. Some telemetry technicians enter the field right after high school. Others enter telemetry after working as a nurse or other health professional.
Currently, no state or federal certification requirements exist for telemetry technicians. In practice, though, most employers demand certification. Becoming certified demonstrates your strong commitment to professional excellence.
So after you’ve completed your telemetry training, the next step is passing the NTA exam. As you did with your coursework, you can take this exam online.
During the exam, you’ll have 180 minutes to answer 303 questions. These questions show your knowledge of electrocardiography techniques. They also show your ability to interpret results to inform diagnosis and treatment.
A score of 85% or higher classifies you as a certified cardiographic technician (CCT). Your initial certification is good for two years. After that time, you can complete continuing education coursework and renew your certification.
In telemetry, knowledge and research into best practices are constantly evolving. So it’s important to keep your knowledge just as current through continuing education.
Becoming certified as a CCT is only the first step for many telemetry technicians. In fact, many technicians choose to pursue more specialized training. Specializing as a telemetry technician usually requires on-the-job training and coursework.
You may choose to specialize in one or more of the following areas:
- Cardiac catheterization
- Vascular ultrasound
- Cardiac sonography
These extra specializations further distinguish you from your colleagues. They also position you to provide the best care to the widest range of patients.
Perhaps you’ve already secured these extra certifications, though. Is there another next step then?
If you pursued certification as a telemetry tech right after high school, there is. You might consider returning to school to become a registered nurse.
Telemetry Monitoring Technicians: Pursuing a Career with a Heart
A career as a telemetry monitoring technician brings personal and professional rewards. Telemetry technicians are well-compensated, and their work is exciting and important.
Now that you know how to become a telemetry technician, you can start down this rewarding career path. As you do, count on the National Telemetry Association to guide your journey.
Maybe you’re just beginning to explore your options. If so, please contact us with your questions.
Or maybe you’re ready to start your coursework or even take your NTA exam. In that case, you can register today on our website.