Registered nurses (RNs) have the opportunity to specialize in a number of different healthcare areas. One of the speciality areas of nursing is telemetry. The telemetry nurse provides life-support monitoring after a serious illness or accident, or when a heart condition is suspected or diagnosed. While this can be a stressful position, it is crucially important. It's the telemetry nurse that often detects life-threatening complications and informs doctors of the need to act.
Telemetry nurses help provide bedside care to patients who are in serious, and sometimes critical, condition and who require constant electronic monitoring. A telemetry nurse is trained in the use of machines that monitor a patient’s heart rate, breathing and other vital signs. While at least one nurse is constantly monitoring the telemetry screens, RNs who work in telemetry units are also expected to carry out traditional bedside care duties, including assisting patients with medications and daily nutrition.
A patient is admitted to a telemetry unit when a doctor feels that they require intensive cardiac monitoring, which can occur after a heart attack or serious surgical procedure. Telemetry nurses are trained to monitor any subtle changes in a patient’s vital signs. It's important that a telemetry nurse has control of their emotions and can remain cool, calm and collected when responding to emergency situations. RNs in this field should be able to remained focused during stressful procedures and medical situations that require quick thinking.
Patients may also be admitted to telemetry units in non-emergency situations, such as in sleep studies. The use of new remote telemetry technologies is particularly useful in these cases. In addition to providing bedside care, telemetry nurses can monitor the vital signs of multiple patients through a centralized computer system.
Due to the typical job requirement of around-the-clock monitoring, most telemetry nurses can be expected to work 12-hour shifts, including nights, weekends and holidays.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted an expected growth rate of 16% for registered nurses through 2024. This rate of growth reflects improving technologies that allow RNs, including telemetry nurses, to treat a wider range of patient issues. The rising population age driven by the aging of the large baby-boomer demographic is also expected to increase demand for healthcare workers, creating additional opportunities for nurses with specialized skill sets, including those with telemetry training.
The BLS reported a median annual salary for registered nurses of $67,490 in May 2015. The lowest 10% of professionals in terms of wages reported earning less than $46,360, while the highest 10% reported earning more than $101,630. Employment prospects and salary ranges may vary based on an individual’s work history, educational qualifications and physical location.
Working as a registered nurse typically requires one of three base qualifications: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or completion of an accredited nursing certification program. While individual employers may have varying expectations, telemetry units tend to favor applicants with at least a BSN. Coursework typically focuses on nursing, anatomy, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.
Beyond the initial degree, telemetry units usually require specialized certification and training relevant to the job. A Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) certification is one of the expected qualifications for nurses who focus on bedside patient care, including telemetry nurses. The PCCN certification is obtained through a passing score on both a written exam and observed bedside patient care.
Working in a telemetry unit can be a challenging and stressful environment, but it can also be tremendously rewarding. By working as a telemetry nurse RNs can be part of a team that is directly involved in the life support of multiple patients. The need for telemetry units to stay up-to-date with technology can present ample room for learning and continued career growth, and the personal nature of providing bedside care may allow those with strong interpersonal skills an opportunity to communicate directly with patients and support staff.
If you enjoy the prospect of working in an environment that can make a direct, meaningful impact on the life of a patient, work in the telemetry unit may be an excellent fit for you.