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Home > Articles > Hospitals, doctors' offices, and laboratories need trained EKC technicians. Explore the job outlook, duties, and required training for this career.

Hospitals, doctors' offices, and laboratories need trained EKC technicians. Explore the job outlook, duties, and required training for this career.

By Jane Greer
Published on December 7, 2009.

 

Job Duties

EKG (electrocardiograph) technicians administer electrocardiograph tests which record the heart's electrical impulses. As an EKG technician, you attach electrodes to key points on a patient's body, turn on the electrocardiograph machine for several seconds to read and record the impulses, and then create a printout from the machine for a physician to analyze. Most patients receive an EKG test before surgery. Many others, especially those with a history of heart problems, routinely get an EKG as part of their regular physical exam.

Advanced training will prepare you to perform not only routine EKGs but also related tests, including those using a Holter monitor or a treadmill. A Holter monitor is a portable EKG machine that allows a much longer recording of the patient's heart impulses than the brief clinical test. As a Holter monitor-trained EKG technician, you attach electrodes to a patient's chest, and the patient will wear a portable EKG belt or small portable monitor for 24 hours or so. Then you create a printout for the physician to analyze. Holter monitors help physicians diagnose pacemaker problems, abnormalities in heart rhythm, and other problems.

Advanced training also equips you to perform treadmill stress tests. For these tests, you attach electrodes to a patient who walks on a treadmill. You gradually and carefully increase the treadmill speed, stressing the patient's heart. A physician then analyzes the recorded results to diagnose stress-related heart problems.

Job Skills

To be a successful, effective EKG technician, you must be able to learn and follow complex instructions, and should enjoy working with electronic equipment. You should also appear friendly, relaxed, calm, and competent in order to provide the best patient care.

Income

In 2008, the median annual wage of cardiovascular technologists, which include EKG technicians, was $47,010. The lowest-earning 10 percent of EKG technicians earned less than $25,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,760. The largest employers of EMTs paid annual mean wages of $58,080 (medical and diagnostic laboratories) and $52,240 (physician offices).

Training and Education

To perform basic EKG tests, you most likely receive 8 to 16 weeks of on-the-job training from a cardiologist or EKG supervisor. Most hospitals and clinics prefer to train employees who already have some experience in health care, such as nursing aides. For the advanced training you need to administer Holter monitor or stress testing, you most likely enroll in a 1-year certification program. In 2006, the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology accredited 31 of these programs in the U.S. Students enrolled in 2-year or 4-year classes to become cardiovascular technologists often work as EKG technicians while they go to school, getting experience and building a list of professional references.

Employment

In 2006, about 43,000 cardiovascular technologists, including EKG technicians, worked in the U.S. Three-quarters of those jobs were in hospital cardiology departments. Most others were in physicians' offices and in medical or diagnostic laboratories and imaging centers.

Job Outlook

Employment of cardiovascular technicians in general is predicted to increase 26 percent between 2006 and 2016, which is much faster than the average rate of growth for all jobs. However, many hospitals train nursing aides to administer basic EKG tests. To make yourself most valuable to employers, get advanced training in Holter monitoring and stress- testing.

 

About the Author
Jane Greer is a freelance writer and editor and is also brave enough to teach English grammar at a community college.
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