If helping save lives is one of your major career goals, working in cardiac care would certainly qualify. Heart disease kills about a million Americans every year, according to the Heart Foundation, and it's the leading killer of both men and women. You can help reduce that number as a cardiovascular technician performing standard ECG tests or remote monitoring called telemetry. Two organizations offer certifications to telemetry professionals.
The heart creates a small electrical signal each time it beats, with each of its four chambers contributing to the overall rhythm. An electrocardiogram machine, usually abbreviated as ECG or EKG, picks up those signals through a set of electrodes taped to the patient's chest. It displays the electric impulses visually, so you can see any irregularities in the rhythm. Unfortunately, the patient's heart doesn't always misbehave while you're watching. To catch less-obvious heart problems, doctors have the patient wear a Holter monitor or other remote telemetry device. It stays on for days and sends a signal to a technician whenever the patient's heartbeat becomes irregular.
If you're working as a cardiographic technician, or if heart monitoring is part of your work as a caregiver in another field, you can be certified through Cardiovascular Credentialing International. The nonprofit organization is supported by the American College of Cardiology and several other medical bodies. You're eligible if you have undergone formal training as a cardiac technician or in a related allied health profession; if you're a student in a training program; or if you've volunteered in the field for two full years. You'll have to pass CCI's written certification exam to earn your credentials.
National Telemetry Association
The National Telemetry Association, or NTA, offers specialized certification in telemetry, suitable for staff who want to add telemetry to their skill sets or for new students wanting to enter the field. The examination is in multiple-choice format and takes about one hour to complete. The NTA offers a study guide and self-assessment test, so you'll know whether you are ready to take the test. If you don't have a cardiac technician training program in your area, Michigan-based Phlebotomy Career Training offers an online training program approved by the NTA.
Demand for cardiac technicians is expected to increase as the baby boom generation ages and experiences more heart problems. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 29 percent job growth for cardiovascular technologists and technicians between 2010 and 2020, double the average for all occupations. Your own prospects will depend on where you live and whether telemetry is your only certification. The more training and experience you have, and the more credentials you hold, the more employable you'll be.
- The Heart Foundation: Heart Disease Facts
- Children's Hospitals of Minnesota: Cardiac Telemetry
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is an Electrocardiogram?
- Heart Rhythm Society: Heart Test
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International: 2013 Examination Application & Overview
- Phlebotomy Career Training: EKG-Telemetry Online Class
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians and Vascular Technologists: Outlook
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images