Whether you’re just starting nursing school or have been a registered nurse for a while, you might have considered what it would be like to explore other specialties in nursing. From the well-known specialities like ER nurses to pediatrics nurses to more unfamiliar specialities like telemetry nurses. Here we take a detailed look at what a telemetry nurse is and the steps of how to become one.

What is a Telemetry Nurse?

First, let’s define the question: what is telemetry? The word telemetry refers to the process of recording and transmitting the collected data of an instrument. A telemetry nurse is a healthcare professional who works in the cardiac telemetry unit and whose main focus is working with the tools used to measure a patient’s health condition and vital signs.

The most significant difference between a telemetry nurse and other types of nurses is their training in healthcare technology. Telemetry nurses will typically have extensive knowledge of medical instruments that other hospital employees may never operate.

Getting proper readings and measurements from medical equipment is important in maintaining and monitoring a patient’s health, and the duties of a telemetry nurse are vital to modern-day medical care. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating realm of medicine, read on for everything you need to know about telemetry nurse duties!

What is a Telemetry Unit in a Hospital?

The telemetry unit of a hospital is where many nurses with this specialty will find work. The telemetry unit is home to patients who require constant monitoring of various bodily functions. The most common conditions seen in telemetry unit patients are related to heart disease or issues, such as:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Heart surgery recovery
  • High blood pressure
  • Renal failure
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities

Besides working with cardiac patients, telemetry nurses can expect to provide nursing care for various other medical conditions that require monitoring and the use of instruments. Some examples of the illnesses telemetry nurses should also be familiar with include:

  • Cancer
  • Respiratory problems
  • High fever
  • Pain controlled by medication

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What Kinds of Patients Receive Telemetry Care?

Though telemetry nurses work on a wide variety of patients, some specific factors make telemetry care more necessary for certain people. There are three types of patients a telemetry nurse will treat:

  • Level 1 – This is the largest category of patients that receive telemetry care. Anyone who is displaying symptoms of heart disease, breathing difficulty, or any other condition that requires telemetry monitoring. Level 1 patients can range from heart attack survivors to patients who received CPR. This category can apply to both adults and children. 
  • Level 2 – Patients in the level 2 category are a smaller group with more specific needs. Acute myocardial infarction, chest pain, and arrhythmia are some conditions that will place a patient in level 2. This group also includes patients who have an implanted pacemaker. Because these conditions are prevalent in older populations, Level 2 patients are typically adults. 
  • Level 3 – Even more specific are the requirements for patients in the level 3 category of telemetry care. This group includes cardiac surgery patients with low risk of arrhythmia, chronic premature ventricular beats, or permanent heart rate control.

Do Telemetry Nurses Have to Work in a Hospital?

Though it’s common for a telemetry nurse to work in a traditional hospital, it’s not always the case. In addition to the telemetry unit and the ICU of a hospital, this nursing specialty can also find employment opportunity in:

  • Outpatient surgery centers
  • Home healthcare
  • Nursing homes
  • Various long-term care spaces

Depending on the type of work you’re looking for, telemetry nurses can work as full-time employees or independent contractors. As long as you have the required qualifications and certifications, you can take your employment into your own hands and use your vital skills however you want. 

What Does a Telemetry Nurse Need to Know?

It’s essential to understand the pros and cons of being a nurse in any healthcare specialty. Some important factors to note before embarking on a journey in telemetry nursing are:

  • Technology is key – The primary duty of a telemetry nurse is handling the tools and technology used to monitor patients. This means telemetry nurses should expect to learn how to use the following machinery:
    • EKG
    • ECG
    • EMG
    • Blood pressure monitor
    • SpO2
    • Dialysis machines
    • Respiratory rate monitor
  • Telemetry nurses are rare – One benefit of earning a telemetry certification is the potential for more job opportunities, whether they be travel or perm positions. The United States is currently experiencing a shortage of telemetry trained nurses—which means those who are certified in this field will have an easier time finding employment.
  • Average salary – Due to the scarcity of telemetry nurses and the extensive qualifications needed, the salary of a telemetry nurse is often higher than other types of nursing. The average annual telemetry nurse salary is $109,061 in the United States.
  • Long hours – As with most healthcare jobs, a telemetry RN often has to work long hours. Hospitals need telemetry nurses on hand 24/7, and one nurse may work up to 12 hours per shift. The work done by a telemetry nurse can be difficult and tiring, so it’s important to understand these requirements before progressing towards a telemetry nurse job.

How Is Telemetry Different From Other Types of Nursing?

Every nursing specialty has its own unique roles and responsibilities. Some duties specifically overlap between telemetry and two other types of nursing: ICU and med surg. 

Telemetry Unit vs ICU

While many telemetry nurses work within their specific ward of the hospital, other telemetry nurses spend their shifts in the intensive care unit. The ICU needs telemetry nurses because IC patients often need their vitals monitored and their medications administered on a regular basis to ensure they’re in stable condition. Whether you’re working in the telemetry unit or as a telemetry ICU nurse, these duties will typically be similar.

Because nurses in this department are only trained in ICU duties, telemetry nurses operate the instruments needed to treat intensive care patients. It’s vital that patients get the proper care they need from those who know exactly how to work the necessary machines and tools. 

Telemetry vs Med Surg

Med surg nursing also has some overlap with telemetry, though there is a clear distinction between the two. 

Medical surgical nurses help treat patients who are either preparing for, or recovering from, a surgical procedure. The duties required of a med surg nurse can sometimes involve telemetry practices, such as:

  • Monitoring patient’s vital signs
  • Checking blood pressure
  • Administering IVs and other medications
  • Using tests to diagnose medical issues

While there is some overlap, it is important to note that a telemetry nurse’s more technical duties won’t typically be performed by a medical surgical registered nurse. More complex instruments and machinery, such as EKG, ECG, and dialysis machines require additional certification and training to operate. This is what sets a telemetry nurse apart from someone trained only in med surg.

How to Become a Telemetry Tech?

Receiving certification in telemetry takes a bit longer than some other nursing specialties. There are four key steps to becoming a board-certified telemetry nurse:

Step 1: Receive a Nursing Degree 

As with any nursing specialty, the first step to becoming a telemetry tech is earning a degree in nursing. You can earn your nursing degree either a two-year associate’s program or a four-year bachelor’s program. Most nursing jobs only require an associate’s degree, though some may ask that you advance your education through an RN to BSN program and obtain a full bachelor’s of science in nursing degree.

Step 2: Become a Registered Nurse

Every nursing position will ask you to obtain a registered nurse certification. When you pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nursing, you will be qualified to begin a career in nursing.

Step 3: Get Relevant Experience

Becoming a telemetry nurse will typically require between one and three years of relevant experience working with telemetric tools and the patients who require them.

Step 4: Become Telemetry Certified 

There are two types of certifications you can earn in the field of telemetry.

  • The first is called The Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification (ACLS), which can be earned in two days.
  • The second is The Progressive Care Certified Nurse certification (PCCN), which can be harder to obtain—as it often requires up to five years of experience as an RN. 

Once you’ve earned your certifications, it’s important that you remember to stay up to date on them. In order to continue practicing telemetric medicine, you must renew the ACLS every two years. Similarly, the PCCN must be renewed every three years. Renewing your certifications will require a set number of hours in training to ensure you’re staying up-to-date on the field’s latest tools and practices.

Where Do Telemetry Nurses Work?

Telemetry nurses typically work in hospital settings. This type of nurse cares for patients who are out of the ICU, but where the patients still need their vital signs monitored closely. Telemetry units are a fast paced work environment due to them providing critical care. This unit also sees a high turnover rate of patients. Besides working in a cardiac telemetry unit, telemetry nurses can work in clinics, in-home care for patients, and other outpatient facilities.

Become a Telemetry Nurse With Host Healthcare

If you’re looking to bring your telemetry nursing skills across the globe, consider becoming a traveler with us at Host Healthcare!

We make travel nursing easier than ever. The process is simple— apply to be a travel nurse with us, wait to be matched with a recruiter, they will find your assignment, and then you travel the country. We’ll send you to a new, exciting location where you’ll work for a set period of time. If you enjoy the life of a traveling healthcare professional, you can continue getting new assignments.

Seeing the world and having a steady job are no longer mutually exclusive. Make your globetrotting dreams come true while continuing to help others by becoming a traveling healthcare professional with Host Healthcare today!