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What Is an Electrocardiography Technician?

Electrocardiograph technicians use various pieces of equipment to help physicians diagnose heart abnormalities. Read on to discover all the duties of an electrocardiograph technician and get additional career info.

Career Overview

If you work as an electrocardiography technician - more commonly known as an electrocardiograph or cardiovascular technician - you'll help physicians diagnose irregularities in patients' hearts and cardiovascular systems. Generally, you'll administer different types of tests while measuring a patient's heart rate. The tools you'll use to diagnose and measure a patient's heart health will vary depending on your experience and training. The tools most commonly used in cardiovascular examinations are electrocardiographs (EKGs), treadmills, and Holter monitors. All of these tools are non-invasive and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), you'll be considered a non-invasive cardiovascular technician.

Although your work will generally be unsupervised, your responsibilities will center on data collection rather than data analysis. You'll likely work in a hospital, physician's office, cardiac facility, or other medical clinic. In May 2018, the BLS reported that cardiovascular technicians and technologists earned an average annual salary of $58,730.

Important Facts About Electrocardiography Technicians

Similar Occupations Radiologic/MRI technologist, clinical lab technician, nuclear medicine technologist
Key Skills Hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, and technical skills
Required Education Prior work in applied science and mathematics helps
On-the-Job Training Typically lasts 4-6 weeks
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education

To become an electrocardiography technician, you may complete an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program in cardiovascular technology from a 2-year or 4-year school. If you're a healthcare professional interested in transitioning to this field, you may be able to complete a certificate program through a hospital instead. Coursework in a cardiovascular technology program covers topics like non-invasive procedures, anatomy and physiology, cardiac pathophysiology, medical instrumentation and medical terminology.

EKG Testing

You'll perform EKGs prior to surgeries or as part of a physical exam. You'll attach electrodes to patients' chests, arms, and legs, then attach these electrodes to an EKG monitor. In some cases, you may ask your patients to exert themselves in some way, but generally your patients will remain still while you flip switches on the EKG machine. When the test is finished, you'll print out the results and take them to a physician for interpretation and diagnosis.

Stress Tests

Other types of tests will require that your patients move or exercise in order to get an accurate reading of their heart rates. Some of these tests won't require you to be with the patient at all. You won't need any extra training to conduct a treadmill stress test. To work with the Holter monitor, you'll need additional training, which your workplace will likely provide.

Holter Monitors

If you've received the on-the-job training needed to work with Holter monitors, you'll use this tool in conjunction with an EKG. You'll place electrodes on your patients' chests and hook the electrodes up to a small, portable EKG. You'll then allow your patients to complete a day's worth of their normal routines while the Holter monitor records their heart rates. After a minimum of 24 hours, you'll scan and print the data collected from the Holter monitor. Instead of analyzing this data yourself, you'll pass it on to a physician, who will then assess the report for heart rate abnormalities.

Treadmill Stress Tests

Your duties during a treadmill stress test will be similar to the duties you'll have when conducting a Holter monitor test. Using electrodes, you'll connect your patients to an EKG and collect the data regarding their heart rates. However, treadmill stress tests typically take place in a physician's office or hospital; these tests are conducted over a much shorter period of time than a Holter monitor test. After connecting your patients to an EKG, you'll take a baseline reading of their heart rates and then ask them to step on a treadmill. As you gradually increase the treadmill's speed from walking to running, you'll monitor the patients' heart rate data on the EKG to see how the increased effort affects their cardiovascular systems.