Telemetry monitoring and EKGs both monitor a patient's heart activity. While the two systems are similar in many ways, they vary in some key areas. As such, it's not uncommon for people to wonder about the difference between what telemetry technicians and EKG technicians do.
Here's a breakdown of each position and its duties:
What Telemetry Technicians Do
Telemetry technicians specialize in monitoring patient heart activity. Since telemetry is a system designed to monitor the electric system of cardiac activity and detect problems or disparities in heart rhythms, telemetry technicians are highly skilled individuals trained to pick up on the slightest variation in human heart rhythms.
To obtain this position, telemetry techs typically go through roughly 120 hours of coursework. This coursework teaches them to adhere EKG leads to a patient, recognize normal and abnormal heart rhythms, and integrate into hospital units, including intensive care units and telemetry departments, as well as any other unit that requires heart-monitoring services.
Entry into a telemetry program typically requires a high school diploma and clean drug screening and background checks.
In their day-to-day operations, telemetry techs will monitor heart rhythms, perform various types of cardiac monitoring, including stress testing and Holter monitoring, and send reports to patient doctors.
What EKG Technicians Do
EKGs, or electrocardiograms, are noninvasive tests that also monitor the heart's electrical patterns. During an EKG test, a technician places leads in key areas of the patient's body to gather information about a patient's heart rhythm, and records the electrical impulses that a patient's body transmits and interprets them for patient physicians and further analysis.
Like telemetry technicians, EKG technicians may also administer Holter monitoring tests. EKG tests look at a more accurate assortment of data than telemetry tests, including the heart's rhythm mechanism, its orientation, whether or not it has thickened in areas, present damage and evidence of blood flow.
EKG tests also evaluate electrical activity that seems abnormal and may be a warning sign of cardiac arrest.
EKG technicians typically work in a hospital setting, although some work in local doctor's offices. To become an EKG technician, students must obtain, at a minimum, a certification from a four- to six-week training program. Many EKG technicians have either an associate's or bachelor's degree in their background, and may take additional background courses in science, health, anatomy, math or physiology.
Currently, EKG technicians are not required to be certified, although most employers require it.
The Differences Between the Two Positions
While both EKGs and telemetry monitor a patient's unique electrocardiogram for a period long enough to obtain information, the two pursuits aren't identical. Whereas telemetry is a relatively general form of monitoring, EKG technicians perform a more specific type of monitoring. While all EKGs are telemetry tests, not all telemetry tests are EKGs.
What's more, there are some slight differences in how technicians gather and report data, and how the two types of tests are used in hospital and clinical settings.
While the two pursuits are different, they're also very similar. Each represents an important addition to the hospital and healthcare system.
When these tests are performed correctly by knowledgeable and experienced techs, they can provide lifesaving information that help patients make smart medical decisions and move forward with their healthcare in the best possible way.