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Electrocardiographic (ECG) Technologist


Description

In order to detect if a person has a heart condition, cardiac stress technologists work with cardiologist to perform stress tests on symptomatic patients. Electrocardiograph technologists (ECG) perform and interpret electrocardiology tests to provide information needed for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. ECG technologists operate equipment that records graphic tracings of electrical impulses transmitted by the heart. The graphic tracing is interpreted by a physician to aid in the diagnosis of heart disease, monitor the effect of drug therapy, and analyze changes in the condition of the patient's heart over a period of time.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is an electrical recording of the heart used to investigate heart disease. From this test, much can be learned about the heart rhythm and heart's chambers. ECG technologists perform the test by placing sticky round patches on the patient's chest, arms and legs. Small wires (electrodes) connected to these patches lead to a machine that records a tracing of the heart rhythm. When the test is completed the patches are easily removed, much like small Band-Aids are removed from the skin. The actual test takes about five minutes.

Treadmill-only testing is still considered an appropriate initial procedure for many patients being worked up for chest pain, palpitations or arrhythmia. Yet, ECGs are still the most common form of stress testing. The technologist documents the patient's medical history, and is required to explain the procedure to the patient and obtain their consent to begin the process.

Another method of testing is combining the ECG with a treadmill test. The technologist attaches the electrodes to the patient's body and stands alongside the patient throughout the procedure to lend support if necessary, while monitoring the heart's performance. During the test, the cardiologist speeds up the pace of the treadmill to see how the patient's heart will react to exertion. The speed a which the patient achieves target heart rate determines the exercise time. The stress technologist monitors the heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure and electrical changes on the ECG throughout the procedure. When the test is complete, the technologist records the data and informs the physician of any wave abnormalities on the ECG.

ECGs are usually performed before most kinds of surgery and as part of a routine physical examination, especially for persons who have reached middle age or have a history of cardiovascular problems.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$20,920
 
Median Salary:
$36,430
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$56,080

  Interests and Skills  
Electrocardiographic technologists are interested in helping people with heart problems. They must be mature and self-confident and emotionally stable. They have excellent communication skills and can get along with people well, be patient and instil confidence. Confidence is also important in being able to think and act quickly in high stress situations. Finally, ECG technologists should enjoy finding solutions to problems and constantly dealing with people.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Operate electrocardiogram and other electronic equipment to record cardiac activity of patients
  • Prepare patients for ECG procedures and tests, and explain the procedure
  • Perform and monitor cardiac activity and record results during the ECG
  • Measure patients' blood flow by analyzing their bodies' use of oxygen
  • Ensure patient comfort and safety during the test
  • Prepare reports for interpretation by cardiologists outlining the results of diagnostic procedures
  • Check ECG equipment to ensure proper operation and maintenance
  • May supervise and train student and other ECG technologists
  • The exact duties and responsibilities of an ECG technologist are often dependent upon the particular institution where an individual works. They generally work standard 40-hour workweeks, which may include evening and weekend work. Some technologists work on-call, in shifts therefore hours can be irregular and long at times. ECG technologists also spend a great majority of their time on their feet and they may also be expected to help lift and move patients from wheelchairs to beds.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most electrocardiographic technologists work in hospital cardiology departments, however, some are employed in private laboratories and clinics.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for electrocardiographic technologists? Registered ECG technologists may take qualifying examinations in special areas such as pacemakers and ambulatory monitoring to change the focus of their career. With years of experience, they may advance to clinical specialists or supervisory positions. However, without additional education, opportunities for advancement are limited.
 

  Educational Paths  
Electrocardiographic technologists must complete of a two-year college, hospital or alternative training program in ECG and cardiology technology coupled with a supervised practical training internship.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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