Nursing has many specialties, and chances are you’ve heard of some of the most popular ones. Some are self-explanatory—labor and delivery nursing, emergency nursing, wound care nursing—while others are hazier. Nursing informatics, ambulatory care nurse, travel nurse… the less-than-clear specialties go on and you want some answers as to what these nurses do.
It was a big enough decision for you to decide to become a nurse, but now facing a list of all these job titles, you feel like you’ve come back to square one. While you won’t be required to choose a specialty until later on in your nursing career, it’s good to know your options and get a feel for where your passions may be.
We’re here to help. We explored one of the lesser-known nurse specialties, telemetry nursing, to help you answer some of your most pressing questions. So the next time you find yourself scrolling through a list of potential specialties and wonder, “What is telemetry nursing?” refer back to this article for guidance.
What is telemetry nursing?
Although telemetry nursing sounds like it might be a cutting edge and high-tech specialty, it is not a new field. Telemetry nurses have always been needed to monitor patients. However, as technology has become more prominent in healthcare, telemetry nursing has become more important.
So what is telemetry nursing?
Telemetry is the process of recording and monitoring devices. In nursing, this is applied to using technology to monitor a patient’s condition, vitals and other statistics. Therefore, you can expect to find telemetry nurses using electrocardiogram (EKG) equipment and other life-saving machines to closely watch any changes in a patient’s condition.
What do telemetry nurses do?
Nurses who work in telemetry provide care for a variety of patients. Most common are patients suffering from cardiovascular problems like heart failure or heart attacks. They also commonly treat patients dealing with renal failure, COPD and cancer.
Telemetry nurses must have a solid understanding of these diseases as well as be technologically savvy—they use devices such as EKGs to monitor and interpret heart rhythms and use various breathing machines to monitor for respiratory distress.
In addition to knowing how to work with the technology and medical equipment, these nurses undertake more traditional nursing duties as well. They start IVs, administer medication, create care plans and educate patients and families.
Where do telemetry nurses work?
Telemetry nurses monitor patients who may have recently gotten out of the ICU or who are too sick to go home. As such, most hospitals have a telemetry unit equipped to handle these patients that need constant supervision.
“Telemetry nursing bridges the gap between the ICU with its more invasive monitoring and the medical/surgical floors where patients may get their vital signs monitored once every eight hours,” Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN says. Patients who are on a telemetry floor may then be moved into a different area of the hospital or sent home if they are deemed stable enough.
You may find that telemetry units are used interchangeably with the terms progressive, step-down or intermediate care—all terms helpful to understanding this transitional stage between critical care and stability.
Nurses in these units can expect a higher patient load than nurses in the emergency room, but less so than on other floors of the hospital. Also, because patients in these units can turn for the worse at any moment, telemetry nurses have shifts scheduled around the clock, which may be something to consider when looking into whether this specialty fits you.
How do you become a telemetry nurse?
Many telemetry nurses are registered nurses, as the position requires extensive medical and technical knowledge. To become a registered nurse, you will need to obtain either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Once you have that, you will need to take the NCLEX-RN to become a licensed registered nurse.
While telemetry nurses need to have skills in both technology and nursing, this specialty is not out of reach for less-experienced nurses.
“Telemetry floors are excellent learning experiences for new graduates because they don’t feature the never-ending tasks of medical surgical floors or the narrow focus of the ICU,” Angelis says.
Registered nurses who have a few years of experience working in telemetry units can also go on to become certified progressive care nurses. This certification shows your knowledge and expertise in providing care to acutely ill adult patients.
What is the job outlook for telemetry nurses?
Now that you know what telemetry nursing is, where telemetry nurses work and how you can become one, you may be wondering about their job prospects. You know all about the nursing shortage, but you don’t know how that translates to individual nursing specialties.
In short, all nurses are wanted and in demand, including telemetry nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2016–2026, employment of registered nurses will grow by 15 percent, which is much faster than the national average of seven percent for all occupations. Telemetry units are expected to grow as reliance on life-saving technology grows and the population ages, increasing the occurrence of illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Ready for the next step?
You know now what telemetry nursing is and what it takes to become a telemetry nurse. If you’re ready for a rewarding career, take the next step and begin your nursing journey. If you’re still pondering your options, that’s okay too. Check out our article, “Top 25 Types of Nurses Employers Are Looking to Hire” to get a feel for some of the other common nursing specialization options out there.