Heart disease has become widespread in the United States because of the increasing rate of chronic medical conditions related to a poor diet and the lack of routine exercise. Diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure negatively affect the ability of vital organs to function and can result in debilitating illnesses and even death. The poor health behaviors of the general public along with an increase in the size of the population and the number of Baby Boomers now entering retirement has created a spike in demand for cardiac care services. Because many healthcare facilities lack the advanced personnel and resources needed to meet the current demand, many administrators have begun hiring unlicensed technicians to perform many of the routine tasks associated with the provision of daily care. This trend has created many new job opportunities for EKG technicians as well as those who are working in other specialties.
The heart is one of the most important organs contained within the human body because of its role in circulating blood through the vast network of vessels that supply oxygen to tissues and transport waste to organs that specialize in filtration and excretion. Like all other organs, the heart requires oxygen to survive and must have a healthy network of vessels that supply it with the nutrients it needs. Individuals who suffer from clogged cardiac arteries are highly susceptible to developing heart attacks and may even die if a severe cardiac event occurs. Many of these patients must receive regular treatments in a cardiac unit in order to ensure that their heart remains functional. An EKG technician is someone who works under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed physician and whose job it is to carry out the basic tasks associated with the delivery of care to heart disease patients.
Some of the most common responsibilities that an EKG technician has include vital sign collection, medical history documentation, procedure preparation, electrocardiogram administration, telemetry, Holter monitoring, new technician training, and a variety of administrative tasks. The contributions of the technician to the patient care team is very important because it allows advanced medical personnel to spend their time evaluating new patients, developing treatment plans, and managing cases that involve complex heart diseases. Without the technician, access to cardiac care would become severely limited and many patients would not receive the life-saving treatment that they need. For this reason, many facilities have begun hiring more technicians to help manage the growing demand for care.
In general, the technician may only perform patient care tasks that are considered routine and that have a predictable outcome. Responsibilities that require advanced medical knowledge, judgment, or skill must be carried out by the nurse or physician and can never be delegated to the technician under any circumstances. The nurse or physician must evaluate a task before delegation to ensure that it has very little chance of jeopardizing the health and safety of patients and they must provide supervision as the technician is performing the task. These requirements are designed to protect patients and to ensure that the interests of medical personnel are preserved in cases of negligence. Most healthcare facilities have policies and procedures that determine how a task may be delegated and the steps that must be taken prior to assigning a responsibility to an unlicensed member of the team.
The fact that the EKG technician is an unlicensed member of the medical team means that most states do not regulate the profession. Employers often set their own education, training, and certification requirements for new technicians. While some employers will consider hiring individuals who have only a high school diploma or GED, they generally prefer those who have at least a two-year college degree and prior patient care experience. Those who do not possess formal credentials may still be able to secure employment after completing a training program provided by the hiring institution and successfully passing a nationally recognized certification exam. Direct contact with potential employers is the best way to ensure that their expectations are being met.