An electrocardiograph technician is a medical professional who specializes in administering special types of diagnostic tests for the heart. A technician measures electrical activity in the heart with electrocardiograph machines and Holter monitors. He or she attaches several electrodes to a patient's chest and wrists, which are connected to machines or monitors via wires. Heart activity and stress levels are monitored in order to detect heart disease and arrhythmias. Most electrocardiograph technicians receive formal training through two- or four-year programs at community colleges, specialized medical technician schools, or universities.
Electrocardiographs and Holter monitors are diagnostic machines that can detect electrical heart activity in patients at rest. Tests are commonly administered to patients who show signs of heart problems or who are about to undergo surgery. Electocardiograph procedures are noninvasive and painless, and usually take less than ten minutes to perform. Holter monitors are typically worn for about 24 hours to measure longer-term changes in heart activity. A skilled electrocardiograph technician may also administer stress tests, in which patients are hooked up to diagnostic machinery while engaging in activity, such as running on a treadmill.
The electrocardiograph technician is responsible for informing the patient about an upcoming test and recording base information about vital signs. He or she attaches electrodes to specific parts of the chest and wrists and turns on the machine. The electrocardiograph or Holter monitor records electrical activity and displays results on paper printouts or digital computer screens. Once a test is completed, the technician removes the electrodes, makes sure the patient's vital signs are stable, and delivers results to a physician. Many technicians assist doctors in analyzing the findings in order to make accurate diagnoses of heart problems.
In order to become an electrocardiograph technician in most settings, an individual is required to complete a two or four year training program. Many junior colleges, universities, and specialty schools offer electrocardiograph training courses, which involve both classroom education and actual practice in medical settings. Students receive detailed instruction from experienced medical professionals in order to learn different terminology and techniques. In many states and countries, new technicians are required to obtain professional licenses by passing written exams.
Most new technicians learn specific on-the-job duties by assisting established professionals. Once they become familiar with hospital policies and equipment, they can begin working independently. With several years of experience, an electrocardiograph technician may be able to become a supervisor, trainer, or administrator. Many experienced professionals teach courses at local colleges or hospital programs to help others learn the trade.