Becoming an EKG technician is a great way to break into the allied health industry, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. EKG technicians may come into close contact with patients who have serious heart ailments that have life-or-death implications. But if you can handle the emotional stress, you’re in for a rewarding, in-demand career.
How do I become an EKG technician?
All EKG technicians must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Many EKG technicians are trained on the job by an EKG supervisor or cardiologist, with training lasting about 8 to 16 weeks. Employers prefer to train people already in the health care field, such as nursing aides. Some EKG technicians choose to pursue more formal education. The most common level of education completed by EKG technicians is an associate degree, but bachelor’s degrees are becoming more available. Many EKG technicians enroll in degree programs while they work part time to gain experience and make contacts in the industry. Another option for EKG training is one-year diploma or certificate programs.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology reviews EKG technician programs seeking accreditation, and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals accredits EKG technician programs. As of 2009, there were 35 programs accredited in cardiovascular technology in the U.S. Once you graduate from an accredited cardiovascular technology program, you may be eligible to obtain professional certification.
Some states require EKG technicians to be licensed, and some states require certification as part of licensure. Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers the Certified Cardiographic Technician credential. Though your state may not require certification, many employers prefer to hire workers who have this professional designation. To find out the requirements in your area, contact your state medical board.
To become an EKG technician, you must be in good physical condition since you will spend a lot of time walking and standing. Plus, heavy lifting may be involved to move equipment or transfer patients. You must also possess mechanical aptitude and be able to follow detailed instructions. The best EKG technicians are pleasant and relaxed, as that puts patients at ease. You must also be able to communicate articulately and technically to work side by side with physicians and explain procedures to patients in a simple and coherent manner.
What will I learn in EKG technician school?
In two-year EKG technician programs, the first year is dedicated to core courses and the second year consists of specialized instruction in noninvasive cardiovascular technology, including the basics of EKG reading, Holter monitoring, lead placement, and stress testing. If you are already qualified in an allied health profession, you may only need to complete one year of specialized instruction.
Accredited cardiovascular technology programs consist of classroom instruction, formal laboratory experiences, and patient-based clinical instruction. Core curriculum includes instruction in general and applied sciences, human anatomy and physiology, basic pharmacology, and basic medical electronics and medical instrumentation. Specialized instruction that will prepare you for professional certification includes EKG techniques and recognition, Holter monitoring, electrophysiology, basic cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, stress test techniques, and cardiac medications.