A monitor technician is rather like a cardiac watchdog, who keeps a careful eye on the heart rhythms of patients. Specialized training allows these technicians to recognize abnormal patterns, changes in blood pressure, pulse rate and other vital signs, then document changes. They do not treat the problems, but they notify the nurse responsible for the patient and continue to monitor the situation.
Skills and Characteristics
A monitor tech must be able to watch multiple patient monitors and respond quickly to changes. However, she must also be able to carry out other duties, such as answering the telephone, relaying messages to coworkers or documenting statistics. She must never become so absorbed in other work that she fails to watch the telemetry monitors. She must be able to manage her time well, communicate with both medical professionals and laypersons, and work in a potentially stressful environment.
Watching for Problems
The monitor tech’s primary responsibility is to watch for abnormal heart rhythms and other signs of a medical problem, such as heart attack. She must be able to recognize grossly abnormal and dangerous rhythms that could be life-threatening, as well as subtle changes over a longer period that may indicate deterioration in the patient’s condition. Once she recognizes an abnormality, she must immediately document the changes and notify the nurse, who will provide medical treatment.
Monitor technicians perform other tasks, such as applying cardiac monitor leads, maintaining or cleaning equipment, or setting up monitors when a new patient is admitted. Because they are typically based at a central nurses’ station, they may also be responsible for answering the telephone or performing clerical duties. Some monitor techs apply ambulatory cardiac monitors and teach patients how to use them. In some cases, the monitor tech is not physically present in the same room with the patient, but monitors from a centralized point in the hospital or even offsite.
Qualifications and Training
Qualifications for monitor techs vary according to the state and institution. Most organizations require a high school diploma and a post-secondary training certificate. Training typically includes a dysrhythmia course -- an educational program designed to teach students how to recognize both normal and abnormal heart rhythms. Computer literacy may be required, and some organizations prefer to hire monitor techs with experience. Monitor techs are not licensed, but professional certification is available from Cardiovascular Credentialing International and may increase job opportunities.
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