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The Telemetry Unit: Guide to Working as a Telemetry Nurse

February 22, 2021

The telemetry unit of a hospital can be an essential aspect of patient medical care. Monitoring cardiac patients remotely through the use of sophisticated telemetry equipment after surgeries, procedures and other cardiac treatments or interventions are all examples of what the telemetry unit is for. When patients enter the telemetry unit of a hospital, they are typically cared for by a telemetry nurse. In this article, you will learn what the telemetry unit is, what a telemetry nurse is, what they do and how to become one.

What is a cardiac telemetry unit?

The cardiac telemetry unit of a medical facility is typically made up of a group of patient rooms that have medical equipment set up, such as EKG and heart monitors as well as other equipment used for monitoring patient vital signs. The data recorded by vital sign monitors is continuously transmitted to a nearby station that is set up so telemetry nurses who are specially trained in the care of cardiac patients can monitor every aspect of a patient's health remotely.

The telemetry nurse monitoring the telemetry unit can provide cardiac intervention or other immediate medical care should conditions in a patient's vital signs change, worsen or otherwise become unstable.

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What is a telemetry nurse?

A telemetry nurse works with patients who suffer from heart disease, heart failure and complications associated with cardiac conditions. Telemetry nurses may also provide medical care to patients recovering from cardiac procedures like coronary bypass surgeries or stent placements.

Telemetry nurses generally work with patients who are placed in the telemetry unit of a hospital after being transferred from cardiac and intensive care units. It is also important to note that telemetry nurses use specialized equipment to monitor patients' progress and provide cardiac intervention methods in the event of an emergency.

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What does a telemetry nurse do?

Telemetry nurses provide medical care for many different kinds of patients who might suffer from cardiovascular issues, renal failure, heart failure and even cancer. Working as a telemetry nurse can require a variety of skills to succeed in the role. Common responsibilities for a telemetry nurse include:

  • Caring for cardiac patients and patients suffering from other correlated health problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer
  • Using medical devices and equipment like EKG and breathing machines to evaluate and monitor patient heart and respiratory rhythms
  • Administering IVs, medications and other medical treatments
  • Providing treatment and care plans and helping patients follow them
  • Educating patients on diagnoses and treatment methods, medications, records and other medical information
  • Monitoring telemetry units of hospitals, recovery facilities, outpatient surgery centers and other medical facilities where cardiac telemetry equipment is used
  • Recording patient vital signs like temperature, breathing and blood pressure and monitoring patients for changes in health status
  • Assisting cardiologists before, during and after cardiac procedures
  • Using diagnostic tests to evaluate a patient's cardiac health

Telemetry nurses may also complete tasks and take on other medical responsibilities that can be considered common among nurses in many different medical specialties. For instance, telemetry nurses may provide basic care like performing routine wellness checkups and monitoring patients' symptoms.

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Where do telemetry nurses work?

Typically, telemetry nurses work in the telemetry unit of a hospital to provide care to patients transferred out of the intensive care unit (ICU) but still require consistent monitoring. While hospital telemetry units are considered the most common place of employment for telemetry nurses, they may also work in outpatient surgery centers and long-term care facilities.

Telemetry nurses can also choose to work as independent contractors in home health roles. In this case, the nurse may work with patients who need constant monitoring, are recovering from cardiac procedures or need continuous use of vital sign monitors and equipment.

How to become a telemetry nurse

To become a telemetry nurse, you must first obtain a degree in nursing. There are certifications you will need to pass exams for in addition to completing nursing school. Here are the best steps for becoming a telemetry nurse:

  1. Complete a nursing degree.
  2. Obtain RN certification.
  3. Gain work experience.
  4. Earn a certification in the telemetry field.
  5. Adhere to certification standards.

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1. Complete a nursing degree

Before you can work as a telemetry nurse, you must first complete an Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (ADN and BSN, respectively). While an Associate in Nursing is the minimum you need to work as an RN and telemetry nurse, many medical facilities require you to possess at least a BSN.

2. Obtain RN certification

Once you have obtained either your Associate in Nursing or Bachelor's in Nursing Degree, you can take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN) to obtain your nursing certification. Typically, to qualify for certification in the telemetry field, you are required to have at least one year of nursing experience.

3. Gain work experience

Since the certification requirements for telemetry nursing can require minimum years of nursing experience, after obtaining your RN certification, it can be a good idea to gain one to three years of work experience in the profession before completing any certifications in the telemetry field.

4. Earn a certification in the telemetry field

Telemetry certification can be obtained with one of two—or both—types of certifications. The Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification (ACLS) is obtained through the American Heart Association and can generally require two days of training to give you a two-year certification.

The Progressive Care Certified Nurse certification (PCCN) is given by the Association of Critical-Care Nurses and can have several specific requirements that may take longer to meet than the ACLS certificate. Two requirements you may need to meet include working a minimum of three to five years as an RN and working a set number of hours in acute patient care.

5. Adhere to certification standards

Both the ACLS and the PCCN certifications require renewal every few years typically through continuing education or training credit hours. The ACLS is a two-year certificate that can require seven hours of continuing education to renew each period. The PCCN certification is renewed every three years, and you may be required to complete continuing education or training hours.

Telemetry units can generally be considered technical medical processes essential to patient care. Telemetry nurses work in the telemetry unit to ensure patients are closely monitored and cared for at all times.

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