Telemetry is considered the science or process of collecting information and sending it somewhere electronically.1 Nurses in this field provide care for patients that require cardiac monitoring (gathering heart rhythm data) and may need intravenous (IV) therapy drips, arterial lines and central venous pressure lines. Special training allows telemetry nurses in a medical-surgical unit to interpret patient cardiac data.2
For those interested in a telemetry nursing career, there are a number of prerequisites, including specific skills and educational requirements.
Skills and Characteristics
Telemetry is considered a specialization within nursing. These nurses use high-tech equipment to measure vital signs, dispense medication and communicate with patients.3 In order to prepare for this career, there are certain skills and characteristics telemetry nurses may want to exhibit, such as:
- Technologically Proficient – Individuals who are able to successfully use technology and interpret data may consider the specialty field of telemetry nursing. Telemetry uses different types of technology to monitor patients’ blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, breathing patterns and heart activity. Additionally, some RNs specialize in cardiac telemetry and use machines such as electrociardiograms.4
- Ability to Work Fast and Maintain Stamina – Telemetry nursing takes place in a fast-paced environment where most professionals are assigned around five patients at any given time. Generally, constant monitoring is required for patients in a telemetry unit, hospitals need to have telemetry RNs on staff 24 hours per day. Nurses, in general, often work long shifts, including nights, weekends and holidays.4
- Communicate Effectively – Because telemetry nurses work alongside other nurses, physicians and other members of the healthcare team, communication is key in providing exemplary patient care. Furthermore, telemetry nurses are tasked with educating patients and their families about medical conditions, so good interpersonal skills are important.4,5
The first stop on this career path is to obtain a degree in nursing. For some employers, an associate degree is enough to get started in the field. Others may require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an approved program.5 In fact, according to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing study, 97.9% of employers are expressing a strong preference for BSN program graduates.6
In addition to the coursework involved when earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, all nursing programs require a period of supervised clinical education.5
Licenses and Certifications
Once a nursing degree from an accredited program has been earned, candidates must take a nurse licensing exam. In the U.S., every state has a designated board that reviews the qualifications of applicants and determines if they are ready to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).5 If an applicant is eligible, there is a $200 fee to take the exam (fees may vary depending on other fees required by the state where the exam is being administered).7
Once licensed, registered nurses can become certified in their specialty fields. The National Telemetry Association offers an online program to help students prepare for and pass the exam for Telemetry Certification in Cardiac Arrhythmia Interpretation. Passing this exam allows RNs to achieve an international accreditation and can differentiate them from other nursing professionals.8
Telemetry nurses may be required to attain the Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) designation.4 PCCN is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely ill adult patients regardless of their physical location. Nurses certified as a PCCN can work in telemetry, emergency departments, transitional care, immediate care, step-down and direct observation.9
Job Market for Telemetry Nurses
Nurses make up the single largest health profession in the U.S., according to a 2014 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of registered nurses employed exceeded 2.7 million out of the 11.8 million health care practitioner, technical and support occupations.10 Through 2024, the job outlook for RNs is also projected to grow by 16%, or must faster than average.11
RNs may need to obtain additional certifications, pursue advanced degrees and specialize in one particular area of nursing (such as telemetry).
What to Expect on a Day-to-Day Basis
In general, RNs provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and family members.11 The daily duties of a telemetry nurse can also include the following:
- Monitoring, recording and interpreting data about a patient’s vital signs
- Providing patient care for those with ongoing health conditions or those who are just out of surgery or intensive care
- Advising patients about their medical conditions and how to avoid relapses or potential problems after being discharged
- Administration of and monitoring patient response to medication4
For those that have these unique traits, complete the required education, and have the drive to keep learning, the career of telemetry nursing can be both challenging and fulfilling.
Pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Colorado Technical University (CTU) offers an online RN-to-BSN program with the goal to help students learn to care for the complex needs of patients across the health care continuum and become leaders in the profession of nursing. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).