Working as a nurse in telemetry

December 5, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Gap Medics student learning how to take a patient's blood pressure. Telemetry nurses care for patients who require cardiac monitoring during their hospitalization. Cardiac monitoring may include devices that measure oxygen level, heart rhythm and blood pressure. 

Various types of patients may require telemetry monitoring including those with high blood pressure and a history of a stroke or heart attack. Patients who are hospitalized due to chest pain also require cardiac monitoring. Telemetry nurses work in step-down units, intermediate care units and telemetry floors. The patients in these areas require specialty care, but may not need to be in the intensive care unit.


Responsibilities of a telemetry nurse

Patients with cardiac conditions, such as heart failure, can develop problems quickly. Nurses in telemetry perform frequent patient assessments to watch for a change in status. Assessments will include measuring blood pressure and assessing breathing patterns and level of consciousness. 

They may also operate heart monitoring equipment and perform diagnostic tests, such as electrocardiograms. Nurses working in telemetry must understand how to follow protocols for treating chest pain. Other responsibilities include administering medication and starting intravenous lines.

Nurses also assist with procedures, such as cardioversions, which may be performed in the telemetry unit to treat a patient’s irregular heart rhythm. They will monitor the patient before, during and after the procedure. One critical aspect of the job is to recognize and respond to cardiac emergencies quickly.

Another responsibility of telemetry nurses is providing education to patients. Frequently patients who are newly diagnosed with cardiac conditions, such as those who had a heart attack, may need to make lifestyle changes. Nurses provide information on dietary changes, exercise recommendations and smoking cessation.


Becoming a telemetry nurse

In order to become a telemetry nurse, you need to graduate from an accredited registered nursing program. Options for a registered nursing degree include two-year and four-year programs.  

Preparation to become a telemetry nurse may start in high school by taking science classes, such as chemistry, biology and math. Students in high school should also consider doing volunteer work in a hospital to get an idea of what a nurse does on a daily basis.

After completing a nursing program, the state-licensing exam is required. Unlike other areas of nursing, new graduates may be hired to work on the telemetry floor. Some hospitals require telemetry nurses to become certified in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). Continuing education classes in electrocardiogram interpretation and monitoring are also beneficial for telemetry nurses.

Nurses can also become certified in telemetry-ICU nursing, critical care nursing or progressive care nursing through the AACN Certification Corporation. The certification process involves completing a certain number of hours working in telemetry and passing the exam. Although certification is not usually mandatory for employment, it can increase a nurse’s chances of getting hired.

Salaries for telemetry nurses depend on what part of the country they work in and whether they hold any certifications. According to a 2012 survey conducted by Advance Magazine, the annual salary range for telemetry nurses was from $60,000 to about $90,000.