Electrocardiograph, (EKG) technicians administer specialized tests to help physicians and other healthcare practitioners diagnose a range of cardiovascular problems in individuals. Tests identify irregularities and disease processes involving the heart, which could result in a heart attack or other related condition. Tests may be administered in an emergency situation in a hospital, before a surgical procedure, or in the doctor’s office when a cardiovascular problem is suspected.
In addition to standard EKG testing, certified EKG technicians, (CET’s) may perform Holter monitoring as well. This technology is used to track a patient’s heart rhythms on a portable monitor, worn for a 24-hour period. Physicians then analyze feedback from the machine while individuals perform normal daily activities. This can help pinpoint specific symptoms or cardiac events associated with certain behaviors. These may include dizziness, black outs, or irregular heart rhythms.
Duties Performed — What To Expect
EKG technicians conduct heart-monitoring tests by placing electrode patches on a patient’s body.
EKG technicians may perform some or all of the following duties:
- Prepare and perform electrocardiograms and stress tests
- Set up and assist patients with Holter or ambulatory monitoring
- Provide EKG test results directly to physicians for analysis
- Schedule patient appointments for EKG’s
- Document or record test interpretations by physician
EKG Technician Requirements—Your Career Path
- High school diploma
- Current basic cardiac life support (BCLS) certificate
- Current CPR certification
- Ability to lift 15-20 pounds
- Knowledge of electrodiagnostic operation
- CET (certified EKG technician) preferred by many employers
- Knowledge of Holter monitoring and stress tests required for CET
- Attention to detail
- Ability to cooperate
- Ability to communicate well with both patients and healthcare professionals
So, you want to be an EKG Technician—Now What?
There are two major routes to a career in EKG technology, either through training while on the job, or a specialized EKG program.
Some medical offices offer on-the-job EKG technician training, according to the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals. This can take up to 4-6 weeks under the guidance of an EKG supervisor, or a licensed cardiologist.
EKG Technician Program
Many career colleges, community colleges, universities, adult extension programs and continuing education programs offer EKG technician certification programs. These train students on the practical procedures involving administering the EKG test including, 12-lead electrode placement, basic anatomy, medical terminology and the legalities of patient interaction. Generally students get hands-on experience working with all necessary equipment and other student patients.
Certification is Key
While certification for an EKG technician is not required, the U.S. Bureau of Labor indicates that many employers prefer certified individuals for hire.
There are four different certifications available for EKG technicians. While each is offered through a separate professional body, all are functionally equivalent in the healthcare marketplace.
Certifications and professional organizations are as follows:
Certified Cardiographic Technician, (CCT)—Cardiovascular Credentialing International
Certified ECG Technician credential, (CET) (ACA)—American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals
Certified ECG Technician, CET (ASPT)—American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
Certified ECG Technician, CET (NHA)— National Healthcareer Association
Eligibility requirements for credentialing may require successful completion of an approved EKG training program or a minimum of six months experience on the job.
Employment Outlook –The growing Field of Electrocardiography
As the 21st century ushers in new and greater technologies in the field of healthcare, and the aging population continues to increase, the demand for skilled, certified EKG technicians will be great. Employment for cardiovascular technologists, as well as other diagnostic medical technicians is expected to grow 24% from 2014 to 2024. This is much faster than average based on all occupations.
Salaries for EKG technicians vary widely from state to state and are commensurate with work experience.
Individuals in the top 10% may average approximately $82,920, or $39.87 per hour. Those in the bottom 10% may earn about $27,810, or roughly $13.37 hourly.
Work Environment—Who Hires EKG Technicians/How Much?
The majority of EKG technicians work in hospitals, however workplace setting dictates pay scales, with specialty hospitals averaging the most money per hour, $27.84, and non-specialty hospitals paying the least, $25.03 per hour. EKG technicians may also work in physician’s offices, averaging ($27.56/hr.) or diagnostic labs, ($26.03/hr.). Outpatient cardiovascular centers pay $27.07 an hour on average.
A career as an EKG technician offers a rewarding opportunity to make a difference in the healthcare field, and in the lives of patients.
Additional Reading: The Heart of the Matter—Your EKG Explained