Telemetry nurses work with patients that require special monitoring, including those recently released from the intensive care unit of a hospital. The patients they work with are often at high risk for complications, so RNs in a telemetry unit must carefully review equipment and data to detect potential symptoms of distress or danger.
A career as a telemetry nurse requires advanced medical knowledge, technical expertise, compassion and strong interpersonal skills to care for patients who may have life-threatening conditions.
In the telemetry unit of a hospital, patients are often in critical condition and need constant monitoring and care. Telemetry nurses review data from special equipment to track a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and other vitals. They also carry out more traditional nursing duties such as administering medications and communicating with patients regarding their condition.
Since most of the patients in a telemetry unit have suffered heart attacks or are recovering from cardiac surgery, some RNs specialize in cardiac telemetry and are proficient in the use of electrocardiogram equipment. However, telemetry units may also be used to monitor patients with sleep disorders or neurological issues, such as epilepsy.
Since constant monitoring is required for patients within a telemetry unit, hospitals need to have telemetry RNs on duty 24/7. These nurses often work long shifts, including nights, weekends and holidays.
Telemetry nurses work with sophisticated equipment, so they must be proficient in using technology and interpreting data. They also need extensive medical knowledge and a familiarity with their patients’ medical history, so that they can ensure that patients are receiving the correct care and answer any questions patients may have. Telemetry unit RNs are typically responsible for multiple patients at a time, so strong multi-tasking abilities are a helpful trait.
RNs working in a telemetry unit should be sensitive to the needs of patients and their families, and ready to ease their concerns. Telemetry nurses need to be able to communicate with patients regarding their condition, and therefore should have good interpersonal skills. They may also be responsible for educating patients and their families on healthy diet and exercise, disease prevention and lifestyle changes that are needed once a patient leaves the hospital.
When staffing a telemetry unit, many employers prefer to hire nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Completion of a four-year undergraduate degree signifies that an RN is likely to have strong analytical skills and a capability for interpreting complex medical equipment. Telemetry unit RNs must also complete a certification exam to attain the Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) designation.
According to national salary data on PayScale.com, RNs specializing in telemetry earned a median annual income of $55,432 in October 2010. However, telemetry experience and an advanced degree – such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – can help RNs advance even further. Those who attained telemetry clinical nurse manager status earned an average salary of $112,000 per year, according to Indeed.com data from October 2010.
In the 2010-11 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job outlook for RNs – including telemetry nurses – remains excellent. Employment of nurses is predicted to grow much faster than other occupations from 2008 through 2018. According to Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow (NHT), there is a growing nursing shortage in the U.S., creating a strong demand for RNs with specialized knowledge and skills. Those who hold a BSN or MSN will continue to enjoy the best opportunities and a wide choice of career paths – and may opt for a rewarding position as a telemetry unit RN.