Also known as EKG technicians or cardiographic technicians, electrocardiogram technicians are health care workers trained to take electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs) on patients. This noninvasive evaluation of the electrical activity of the heart consists of correctly attaching electrodes to the patient's chest and limbs, and then operating an EKG machine to produce a reading. The majority of electrocardiogram technician jobs are in hospitals as regular EKG technicians. Those with additional training may also work as 24-hour Holter monitor technicians, as phonocardiographic technicians, and as cardiac stress test, or treadmill EKG, technicians. Cardiac stress test technicians are usually employed in an outpatient setting.
The majority of electrocardiogram technician jobs are performed by EKG technicians in the context of a routine checkup or physical exam, as part of clearance for surgery, or in order to investigate complaints of chest pain. The advanced electrocardiogram technician jobs of Holter monitor specialists take place in an outpatient setting, and require the technicians to attach electrodes to the patient and portable EKG recording devices to their waistbands or belts. Stress test technicians attach electrodes to a patient, instruct him or her on the expected procedure and take a baseline reading prior to having the patient exercise on a treadmill. Phonocardiograph technicians use equipment to check for abnormal sounds, which could indicate a heart murmur or other problem.
Most electrocardiogram technician jobs are held by certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who have completed an on-the-job training period lasting between four to six weeks in length. To become a Holter monitor technician, additional on-the-job training may require another 18 to 24 months of instruction and apprenticeship. In the US, there are a few yearlong community college classes that prepare students for certification in all electrocardiogram technician jobs, including the advanced Holter monitor and stress test positions. A few EKG technicians may also be cardiovascular technology students who are obtaining clinical experience while pursuing a two-year associate degree in cardiovascular technology. Credentialing from a professional body is available to cardiovascular technology graduates.
Overall, the job market for electrocardiogram technician jobs is anticipated to be very good or much better than average over the next two decades as the general population ages. Health care workers who have earned an associate's degree in the field or who have the ability and experience to perform more than just a basic 12-lead EKG will have the best outlook for faster job placements and increased salaries.