An electrocardiogram (EKG) technician is someone who works in cardiac care and who is responsible for taking care of several routine activities that do not require the expert knowledge, judgment, or skill of a registered nurse or licensed physician. In general, a technician is not expected to have extensive college education or specialty training and will often be considered for an open position with nothing more than a high school level education and some prior patient care experience. The low barriers to entry that are associated with this profession coupled with the ability to earn a competitive allied health compensation package makes this one of the most popular specialties for those who want to work in healthcare as an unlicensed provider and who have the personality required to become successful in a service industry.
Demand for technicians has increased dramatically in the United States over the past several years due to a few important trends. One of the most concerning public health problems that has cropped up over the past twenty to thirty years is the increasing prevalence of chronic diet and exercise related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. These diseases are progressive and can wreak havoc on the vital organ systems that the body depends on for survival. Elevated levels of cholesterol along with high fat foods tend to create deposits in the cardiac vessels over time and eventually result in blockages that can cut off the supply of oxygen to the heart. When the cardiac cells do not receive the oxygen and the nutrients they need, they rapidly die and often cause death in situations where patients are not treated in a timely or effective manner.
Other important trends that have led healthcare companies to construct new cardiac treatment facilities and hire additional allied health personnel include the ever expanding size of the population, the large number of retiring baby boomers, and the recent expansion of medical coverage to individuals who had been uninsured. Although these trends have placed tremendous pressure on the medical infrastructure, they have also created an environment in which job growth for unlicensed personnel is strong. While an entry-level provider can benefit from employment opportunities in just about every specialty, cardiac care is expected to grow by 29% over the next ten years which is much faster than the average for all of the other occupations. According to federal statistics, there are over 500,000 people who die each year in the US due to cardiovascular related diseases.
Although employers do prefer to hire technicians who have completed formal training and who have a few years of patient care experience, the dramatic increase in demand for cardiac care has resulted in a unique situation where organizations need to recruit a large number of unlicensed personnel to manage the influx of patients. While applicants who are new to healthcare will be required to complete a formal training program and pass a national technician certification exam, they may be able to find employment with little more than a high school diploma or GED and a handful of solid work references. Those who are finding it difficult to compete against more qualified individuals, may want to consider seeking employment as a nurses assistant or medical aide prior to making the transition to the cardiac care unit.
A career as an unlicensed provider can be extremely rewarding for those who have a strong desire to help improve the lives of others and who possess the required character qualities for working in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful medical setting. In general, individuals must be compassionate, caring, detail oriented, willing to receive instruction, courteous, and able to work well with others. Employers actively seek to recruit applicants who have these traits and are often willing to pay a more competitive EKG technician salary in order to attract qualified individuals. Those who wish to further advance their career in the specialty may be able to take advantage of opportunities to become part of the managerial team once they have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to lead others.