An electrocardiogram technician, usually called an EKG technician, is a vital member of the health care team. A relatively short training period and solid employment outlook are making becoming an EKG technician an attractive option for many people.
The EKG technician is a specialist in the maintenance and operation of the EKG machine, a key diagnostic tool for patients who have or may have heart disease or other cardiovascular problems. The job description may vary slightly from one employer to the next, but most EKG technicians take medical history from patients and set up tests that are appropriate according to a doctor’s orders. They may have to explain the tests to the patient, helping to allay any fears.
To perform the EKG, electrodes are attached to the patient’s body, and the technician monitors the patient and the equipment throughout the course of the test. Later, the EKG technician may be responsible for interpreting the test results, and may also have to test or monitor a patient for progress as the doctor requires.
Earning a high school diploma is the first step toward becoming an EKG technician. After that, most employers require some specific EKG training, though these requirements can vary widely. Some technicians can gain employment after a single semester of training. Others complete certificate or associate degree programs. The EKG technician then becomes certified through one of several certification organizations, though such certification is rarely required.
How Long Does It Take To Become An EKG Technician?
While some community colleges offer EKG technician programs that can be completed in a single semester, these programs usually have prerequisites that will require additional time. Certificates can be completed within about nine months while an associate degree typically requires two years of full time study. This time is divided between lecture and clinical experiences, with some programs requiring an externship where students receive hands on training in a medical facility.
After graduating from high school or receiving a GED, the student must choose what kind of educational program they will select that will lead to them becoming an EKG technician. Program requirements can vary significantly from one state to the next, depending upon what level of services and skill are required by state regulations. While it’s possible to attend very brief EKG technician training, most prospective employers are drawn to technicians who have achieved a higher level of education. Accordingly, it may make sense to earn a certificate or associate degree from an accredited institution to ensure better employment prospects.
Students who enroll in an associate degree program for EKG technicians will be required to complete general education credits in addition to the core curriculum. Students seeking only a certificate will only take the core curriculum courses. These classes usually include an introduction to electrocardiograms in which the EKG machine is introduced. Students learn how to use the machine and how to interpret test results in this class.
Another common class is the introduction to electronic health records. As the health care industry moves closer to using only electronic records, this course will have increasing importance. Additional important components of the training for becoming an EKG technician include the anatomy of the cardiovascular system. Students should also expect to attend an externship, which may last as long as 80 hours. This externship lets students put their skills to use in the real world.
Certification is not required in every state. Nonetheless, becoming certified can be valuable, as potential employers see it as the mark of a dedicated professional who is committed to providing an exceptional level of performance and patient care. Prospective EKG technician students should check with their state’s medical board to determine whether or not certification is required for employment.
The most common certifications come from the National Health Career Association and the American Certification Agency for Health Care Providers. Typically, those hoping to become certified must register in advance to take the test. This involves filling out paperwork and paying a fee. It’s possible to prepare for the certification testing online at the websites of the various organizations, many of which provide test preparation materials for an additional fee. Testing is given at many locations throughout the country, and is most often conducted via computer. Most organizations require an additional test in order for the EKG technician to be re-certified every few years.