What Is an EKG Technician?
Most people know that an electrocardiogram or EKG is a test that measures heart rhythm, but it takes intricate knowledge of this procedure to ensure that the results are accurate.
The formal name for an EKG technician is an electrocardiograph technician, but sometimes they can be referred to as electrocardiogram or cardiographic technicians.
All terms aside, though, the job of an EKG technician is to perform a diagnostic test that helps a cardiovascular doctor identify heart rhythm issues or irregularities that may indicate the impending danger of heart disease or heart attack, potentially saving many lives in the process.
Below are career steps and skills that will lead to job opportunities for individuals interested in becoming an EKG technician.
What Are the Job Duties of an EKG Technician?
- Main Duties: The main job of an EKG technician is to perform the actual electrocardiogram, but throughout this process, the EKG technician has other duties as well.
- Communicate with Patient: Before administrating the test, they must explain the procedure to patients so that they are comfortable with the test and the process.
- Check Blood Pressure: And throughout the test, the EKG technician has to monitor the blood pressure of a patient — even more so if it’s being done under emergency conditions, such as in an ER or trauma setting.
- Keep Patients Stable: They also need to position patients properly to ensure correct reading.
Strong on Your Feet
EKG technicians should be prepared to stand for the majority of their workday and be able to lift a modest amount of weight since they may need to turn or rotate patients.
Sometimes Weekends & Nights
In addition, they should be aware that while there are some job positions in inpatient care settings that allow a nine-to-five workweek, in many job positions, they will be required to work weekends, overnight and even well into the evening.
On average, how much money do they make?
The salary of an EKG technician can, of course, vary depending on their experience, credentials, training and the shift they choose to take, but the median annual salary documented by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is $32,118.
What Type of Personality Do You Need?
EKG Technicians are required to interact with patients on a daily basis. Therefore, they must have people skills and be comfortable interacting with a wide variety of patients.
They also need to understand that many of their patients may be in poor health or angry at their situation. Therefore, technicians need to be empathic toward their patients and have a great deal of patience.
For example, some patients may need to be moved or lifted, so any technician must be comfortable with personal interaction.
In addition, EKG technicians must be comfortable with the fields of math and science, since both are heavily required within the healthcare industry.
Advancement in the field will require a deep understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Therefore, a scientific mind and understanding of anatomy are complementary skills that will help anyone who is considering becoming an EKG technician.
Finally, an EKG tech needs to value privacy and understand the right that their patients have to privacy. They must be comfortable not discussing patients or situations at work with others.
They also must understand the legal expectations of their job when it comes to sharing medical knowledge or patient history. EKG techs are not allowed to reveal results to patients and must be comfortable fielding questions and deferring their answers to the medical professionals who are.
Steps To Becoming an EKG Technician
Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma or GED
Before you can start training to become an EKG technician, you will need to finish high school or complete an equivalent. For adults who do not have a high school diploma, this commonly means taking the GED.
Bonus High School Courses
If you are currently in high school and know that you want to pursue EKG technician training after graduation, it is a good idea to take a variety of math and science courses.
In addition, if possible, it is a good idea to take courses in anatomy and physiology, which can be completed for high school credit at some community colleges or vocational high schools.
Step 2: Compile Experience in Healthcare
EKG training usually occurs in the workplace, but it can be helpful for applicants to have a history in the healthcare field before applying for a position as an EKG technician. While it is not a requirement, it may help you obtain a higher starting rate and receive a position over another candidate.
Some great ways to get experience in the healthcare field include working as a paramedic, EMT, nurse’s aide, or volunteering at your local hospital.
Work With Someone
If the opportunity to shadow a healthcare worker comes up while in a training program or high school, it is advantageous to take it.
Step 3: Complete EKG Training in the Workplace or Pursue an EKG Technician Program
Once your high school degree or GED is completed, it is time to start an actual EKG technician program.
4 to 6 Weeks to Complete
According to the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals, most training programs involve on-the-job training and take place within the healthcare care setting, with the average training program taking about four to six weeks and usually being administered by an EKG supervisor or a cardiologist.
These programs are designed to help students obtain the skills needed to become an EKG technician while also learning anatomy, medical terminology, and the proper legal considerations that need to be considered when providing patient care.
What Do They Teach You?
Throughout the program, EKG technician students learn about the EKG machine and practice the technique of placing 12-leads on a patient.
Most of the learning occurs in the classroom as students become familiar with EKG equipment, but they also gain experience during labs and shadow opportunities in the workplace.
However, this is just one option for those seeking an EKG technician certification. Many colleges also offer EKG technician certification programs.
Step 4: Get Certified
Once you have completed your EKG technician training, you need to take the official certification to become an EKG technician. This certification is offered by the Cardiovascular Credentialing International institute.
Preferred by Employers
While it is not required to become an EKG technician, most hospitals and private practices prefer applicants who have demonstrated their education and skill level by obtaining professional certification.
To take the Electrocardiograph Technician exam, EKG Technicians must have six months of experience or completed a recognized EKG training program. And prior to taking the exam, students should visit the Cardiovascular Credentialing International website to look at reference materials and sample questions.
Step 5: Consider Further Training
There is always more room for advancement for EKG technicians who want to advance in their careers.
Many individuals decide to learn how to administer additional tests to become more versatile, such as Holter monitoring and stress tests. It can take another year to two years to complete this type of training, and it usually takes place on the job. However, applicants should be aware it involves learning quite a bit of cardiovascular and physiological anatomy, but this comes with the advantage that it can help increase future job opportunities.
If you are looking at becoming an EKG technician, review these options and then choose a program that fits your requirements to launch your new career path today.
Is it a Good Long Term Career?
Jobs within the healthcare industry are in high demand, and EKG technicians are no exception to this.
Finding a job as an EKG technician should not be a problem if the applicant has the proper training and certifications. There are several things that applicants can do, however, to increase their chances of being hired, including taking a professional course, obtaining professional certification, and spending time in the healthcare atmosphere to increase exposure and gain experience.