EKG Technician Job Duties and Educational Requirements
The job of an EKG technician can be challenging and stressful because you will often be working with patients that have life-threatening heart conditions or patients that are about to undergo major surgery. However, it is also a very important job that can be very rewarding for someone that would like to work in the medical field assisting doctors and helping patients. As an EKG technician you may find yourself working in a physician’s office, a cardiac rehabilitation center or even in an operating room.
An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure in which electrodes are placed on a patient’s chest in order to measure the electrical activity of the heart. It is a “noninvasive” procedure because there is no need to insert probes or other instruments into the patient’s body, all of the equipment is on the outside of the body, and the patient’s skin. The person that performs this procedure is an EKG technician and it is their job to perform these tests so that doctors can monitor a patient’s vital signs.
With advanced training an EKG technician can also perform Holter monitor and stress testing. A Holter monitor test requires that the electrodes be placed in strategic positions for 24 hours. This allows a lot of information to be gathered and that information is then printed and delivered to a physician for analysis. This type of testing is used to diagnose things like abnormal heart rhythms. A treadmill stress test is used to see how an increase in physical activity will affect a patient. To perform this type of test an EKG technician will use an EKG monitor to get a baseline reading and a resting blood pressure. While the patient walks on the treadmill and gradually increases their level of physical activity the electrocardiogram is recording information that can give doctors a good idea of the patient’s overall health.
To pursue a career in this field you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. There are no degree requirements to become an EKG technician and it is possible to get on the job training but most employers would prefer to hire someone with some healthcare experience or someone that has a degree or has completed a certification program. An Associates degree will take two years to earn and many certification programs can be completed in less than one year, some courses can be completed in as little as 8 to 16 weeks.
Whether you attend a vocational school with a certification program or you go to a community college for an Associates degree the courses will include instruction on using the various equipment, medical terminology, patient safety and ethics.
The median salary for an EKG technician in the United States is approximately $32,000 per year. Most positions in the healthcare field are expected to grow considerably over the next several years but nursing aides and other hospital personnel can be trained to perform basic EKG procedures so job opportunities for EKG technicians that are only able to perform a basic EKG may be a little harder to find. With a little extra training, the ability to perform Holter monitoring and treadmill stress tests will open up more opportunities for you.