Telemetry Nurse: Duties, Pay, and How to Become One

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Telemetry nurses monitor cardiac patients’ vital signs and ensure that they receive the care they need. Learn more about this important health care career and how it's helping to tackle the leading cause of death in the US – heart disease.

[Featured Image]: Telemetry Nurse preparing to consult with cardiac patient.

Telemetry nurses monitor cardiac patients’ vital signs to ensure they remain in stable condition and receive the care they need should their symptoms worsen. As specially trained medical professionals, telemetry nurses are trained to operate and read specialized monitoring equipment like electrocardiograms. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a health care career that helps critically ill patients dealing with life-threatening cardiac conditions, then you might consider a career as a telemetry nurse. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about telemetry nursing, what telemetry nurses do, and how to become one. You’ll also explore other types of nursing careers and find suggested online, cost-effective courses that can help you gain the knowledge and skills you’ll need to perform this important job. 

What is telemetry nursing? 

Telemetry nursing is a specialized subfield of nursing that focuses on the monitoring of patients with cardiac conditions, such as heart disease and heart failure. Telemetry nurses are Registered Nurses (RNs) who are trained to use and read an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and telemedicine technology to effectively monitor a patient’s vital signs and identify any irregular heart rhythms. 

The word telemetry is derived from the Greek words tele, meaning “far, far off, operating at a distance,” and metron, meaning “to measure” [1]. True to their name, telemetry nurses are tasked with measuring a patient's vital signs at a distance – either in the room with the patient through noninvasive heart monitoring equipment or far away with the aid of telehealth technology. 

Read more: Telehealth Nursing: What It Is and How to Get Started

Telemetry nurse job description: what does a telemetry nurse do? 

Telemetry nurses monitor patients’ heart conditions using specialized equipment. While the exact responsibilities you may perform as a telemetry nurse will likely vary from one position to another, some common duties you can expect to perform on the job include: 

  • Collaborate, coordinate, and communicate with other health care professionals to ensure patients receive appropriate care

  • Administer prescribed medication intravenously (IV), orally, or subcutaneously and report any adverse reactions

  • Monitor patient vital signs using specialized equipment, such as EKGs, and identify any irregular rhythms or readings

  • Offer corrective action in the event that symptoms  worsen or adverse reactions arise

  • Provide basic bedside care, such as providing emotional support and advocating for patient needs 

Heart disease in America 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020 alone, approximately 697,000 people died from heart disease, accounting for one out of five deaths that year. That’s one death every 34 seconds due to heart-related illness [2]. 

As a telemetry nurse, you’ll help save patients’ lives as they face this life-threatening and pervasive health condition. 

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Health care is a growing field in the United States. As a result, nurses are not only in demand but also command a higher than average salary. In this section, you’ll learn more about what you can expect to earn as a telemetry nurse, their job outlook, and related nursing careers you might consider exploring. 

Telemetry nursing salary 

As a telemetry nurse, you can expect to command a higher than average salary. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600 as of May 2021. This salary is much higher than the median annual income for all workers in the United States, which the BLS notes was $45,760 during the same period [3]. As a result, whether you specialize in telemetry or not, you can expect to earn a salary that exceeds the national median as a registered nurse. 

The exact pay that you receive, though, will likely vary depending on your work experience, geographic location, training, and employer. 

Telemetry nurse job outlook 

Much like with other health care professions, the job outlook for telemetry nurses is positive. 

According to the US BLS, the number of registered nurses is projected to grow by six percent between 2021 and 2031, adding approximately 203,200 new jobs each year throughout the decade [4]. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s reasonable to assume that a sizable number of these positions will be telemetry nurses capable of reading the specialized equipment capable of monitoring coronary conditions.  

Related nursing jobs and alternatives

Telemetry nursing is just one of many specializations that you can pursue as an RN. If you’re interested in becoming a specialized nurse but aren’t sure if telemetry nursing is right for you, then here are some other related position you might consider pursuing:  

Where do telemetry nurses work? 

Telemetry nurses work in a wide range of professional settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, outpatient care centers, long-term care spaces, and within patients’ homes. 

If you’re interested in a health care profession that can be performed in a variety of health care settings, then you might consider a position as a telemetry nurse.  

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How to become a telemetry nurse 

The path to becoming a telemetry nurse is similar to those of other specialized nursing positions. In addition to attending a nursing program and passing a nursing exam, you’ll also likely have to gain the right work experience and possibly even professional certification to land a job. 

Assuming you’re not already an RN, here’s what you can expect to do to become a telemetry nurse: 

1. Complete a nursing program. 

To become a telemetry nurse, you must first become a registered nurse. And, to become a registered nurse, you must first attend a certified nursing program. 

In the United States, there are three paths you can take to meet the educational requirements to become an RN: by attending a nursing diploma program, obtaining an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or achieving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The right path for you will likely depend on your current resources, responsibilities, and personal goals. 

You should keep in mind, however, that the BSN is quickly becoming the standard nursing degree within the field. Nonetheless, many institutions do offer accelerated BSN programs for practicing RNs who already possess either a diploma or ADN, so it is still possible to receive one after you have already entered the profession. 

Read more: How to Get Into Nursing School: Your Guide to a Degree

2. Pass the NCLEX.

Once you’ve completed your nursing program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). In order to become a licensed RN, you must pass the NCLEX, so make sure to study and prepare for the exam. 

3. Obtain your license and get registered. 

After you have passed the NCLEX-RN, you must register as a nurse with your home state and obtain your licensure to practice professionally. The requirements to become licensed vary from state to state so make sure to check with your state’s guidelines to make sure you have completed all appropriate steps. 

4. Consider obtaining a telemetry nurse certification. 

While you technically don’t need certification to practice professionally as a telemetry nurse, many hospitals and employers will likely either require or prefer that you possess one. 

Two of the most common telemetry nurse certifications offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) include the Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) specialization and the Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC). If you’re considering a career as a telemetry nurse, then you might consider obtaining one of these two certifications to prepare for the job and stand out to employers. 

5. Gain work experience. 

You can be hired as a telemetry nurse right out of nursing school, but you might also consider gaining relevant professional experience before applying for positions. Gaining the right work experience within a professional health care setting, whether it be by providing simple patient care or supporting professionals in a telemetry unit, can help you stand out to potential employers.   

Gain vital career training with Coursera

Telemetry nurses use their medical knowledge and expertise to save critically ill patients’ lives every day. If a career in telemetry nursing sounds right for you, then you might consider taking a cost-effective, online course through Coursera to gain some of the critical knowledge you’ll need to perform this important job. 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us explores the anatomy and physiology underlying the vital signs so that you will develop a systematic, integrated understanding of how the body functions. 

The University of Minnesota’s Integrative Nursing Specialization, meanwhile, teaches course takers how to practice and apply specific integrative therapies at work, in alignment with research evidence and safety and quality considerations.

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Article sources

1

Online Etymology Dictionary. “Telemeter (n.), https://www.etymonline.com/word/telemeter.” Accessed October 18, 2022. 

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