What Does An EKG Technician Do?

"In my search for meaning about my life, I am thinking of making a career shift from business to the healthcare industry. I’m considering becoming an EKG technician but I want to learn more about it before I actually enroll in a program. What does an EKG technician do?"

asked by Drew K. from St. Cloud, Minnesota

EKG tests are generally undertaken before a patient undergoes surgery as part of the required screening procedures. They are also needed in routine physical exams of middle-aged individuals or of those who are being monitored for history of heart problems. Before starting the procedure, EKG technicians see to it that the patient is comfortable and at ease by explaining the test thoroughly and answering any questions they may have.

Under the direction of the cardiac sonographers, EKG tests administer tests to find out what the problem is with a patient’s heart. Their task is to record and evaluate the electrical impulses that the heart transmits to an EKG machine via the electrodes that are connected to different parts of the patient’s body. They attach anywhere from three to twelve electrodes to various points on the patient’s arms, chest and legs in order to start the procedure.

The wave tracings that are generated are then printed on paper. After the complete printout has been produced, EKG technicians look at it closely and points out areas where the readings generate a wave pattern that is not within the normal range. They then hand the wave tracings to the doctor who will provide the final interpretation.

Some EKG technicians may also be trained to perform more sophisticated tests:

  1. Holter monitoring
  2. Stress test

The first checks for irregularities in heartbeat and the second measures stress. Physicians typically order any or both these tests when patients exhibit signs and symptoms that need to be checked.

In a Holter monitoring test, a portable EKG monitor called a Holter is attached to a patient’s belt and wired with electrodes on the patient’s chest. The patient is then instructed to go about his regular activities for the next 24 hours. After the testing period, EKG technicians then remove the monitor, scan the results and print out the data. They then produce a report for the ordering physician to interpret.

The stress test, meanwhile, is an exam wherein the EKG technician first takes the EKG reading while the patient is standing and not doing anything. Then, he does the same test while the patient is walking on the treadmill. He continues to track the EKG results while increasing the speed on the treadmill. Both results of the patient’s EKG tests are compared by the physician to find out what the effect of activity is on the cardiovascular system of the patient.

EKG technicians are typically employed by hospitals and clinics. Sometimes, cardiologists who have their own private practices also have their own technicians working for them.

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