What Is a Telemetry Nurse?

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse in red scrubs demonstrates: "What is a telemetry nurse?"

Electrocardiogram. Asynchronous pacing. Syncope. Unstable angina. These terms may sound unfamiliar to many, but one type of nurse is well acquainted with them. Who might that be? Telemetry nurses.

Just what is a telemetry nurse exactly? In this article, we’ll explain what these nurses are, what they do, how you can become one, telemetry certification for nurses, salary expectations, and more.

What Is a Telemetry Unit?

When you break it down, the word telemetry comes from the words tele which means “remote” and metron which means “to measure.” It is defined as the automatic recording of data that gets sent to a device for monitoring.

In the hospital, patients who are “on telemetry” are connected to a three- or five-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) for continuous cardiac monitoring. Basically, these are wires connected to adhesive pads attached to a patient’s chest, so the heart rhythm can be seen at all times from the nurse’s station or bedside monitor.

Thus, a telemetry unit is a floor in the hospital dedicated to patients who require cardiac monitoring. A telemetry unit may also be called a cardiac telemetry unit.

What Is a Telemetry Nurse?

A telemetry nurse, also known as a cardiac nurse, is a registered nurse who has cardiac training and experience treating patients with various cardiovascular conditions. They know how to interpret a patient’s ECG strips, care for patients after cardiac procedures, and intervene quickly when a patient’s status deteriorates.

What Type of Patients Are On a Telemetry Unit?

Simply put, the telemetry unit is for patients that require continuous cardiac monitoring. Sometimes patients are admitted directly to the telemetry unit; other times patients are transferred to the telemetry unit from the intensive care unit (ICU).

Telemetry nurses care for conditions such as:

  • Decompensated heart failure
  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Severe electrolyte imbalance
  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac procedures (such as a pacemaker implantation)

Progressive Care Unit vs. Telemetry

A progressive care unit (PCU), also called a step-down unit, is a hospital floor where an intermediate level of care is provided. The patients there are not stable enough to be on a medical-surgical floor, but do not require the continuous, close monitoring of an ICU.

Nurses working in the PCU typically have three patients, all with various health conditions. Nurses working in telemetry typically have six patients, all with cardiovascular conditions needing cardiac monitoring.

What Do Telemetry Nurses Do?

Telemetry nurses provide much of the same nursing care as other nurses, such as administering medication and providing patient education. However, telemetry nurses are special in that they are constantly monitoring and interpreting patients’ cardiac rhythms. But what is a telemetry nurse actually doing day to day? Some typical duties include:

  • Assessing pulses via doppler
  • Interpreting ECG strips
  • Performing a 12-lead ECG
  • Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
  • Chest tube management

How to Become a Telemetry Nurse

Your first step to becoming a telemetry nurse is to become a registered nurse. You have many options to do so, but it begins with choosing an accredited nursing program to earn either your associate degree in nursing (ADN) or your bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

Then you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply to your state board of nursing for licensure as an RN. Then you can start applying to jobs.

To help build telemetry nurse skills, you’ll need ECG training and ACLS certification, which many employers provide. You can also find ECG interpretation classes at many local community colleges.

Working on a telemetry unit does not require previous cardiac experience, but having some experience in acute care is recommended. Patients who require cardiac monitoring may often need quick interventions when their status changes, so having a broad base of nursing knowledge and experiences to draw from can be helpful.

To see what employers may be looking for when hiring for this role, check out our sample telemetry nurse job description template.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Telemetry Nurse?

It takes about two to four years to become a telemetry nurse, depending on whether you pursue an ADN vs. BSN degree. If your employer requires prior nursing experience, this could add to your total time to becoming a telemetry nurse.

Will I Need a Telemetry Nurse Certification?

Telemetry nurses are not required to have additional nursing certifications, although this is encouraged and looks good on your telemetry nurse resume. Achieving board certification in telemetry showcases your expertise and competence in cardiac nursing.

If you do choose to seek telemetry certification for nurses, you have many options. Common choices include:

What Do Telemetry Nurses Make?

The average telemetry nurse salary is around $109,000 per year. In comparison, the average registered nurse salary is $89,010, but do note this is for all RNs. Depending on your location, experience level, degree, and facility, your exact salary as a telemetry nurse may vary. Also, having telemetry nurse certification may help you to earn more.

To get a better idea of what you might make in your location, check out the telemetry nurse jobs currently posted on IntelyCare.

Is Telemetry Nursing Right For You?

You’ve asked, What is a telemetry nurse?, and we’ve answered. Are you ready to join them? Find a nursing job in any specialty or care setting that is the best match for you with IntelyCare.