An electrocardiogram technician (also known as cardiographic technician, ECG tech or EKG tech) is a member of the health care team whose primary duty is the performance of electrocardiograms on patients. An electrocardiogram (often abbreviated EKG or ECG) measures the electrical activity of the heart and can be used to diagnose a range of heart diseases.
The process of taking an ECG involves attaching a series of electrodes to the patient's chest and limbs, and printing a recording on the ECG machine for interpretation. It takes approximately 5 minutes to record a diagnostic ECG.
The role of the ECG tech is expanding in the hospital setting. Cardiographic technicians with advanced training are important in exercise ECG testing and in Holter monitor testing. The roles of an ECG technician in stress testing involve taking a patient history, obtaining a baseline ECG, taking initial vital sign measurements, and explaining the procedure. A number of protocols exist for stress testing, and the technician's role involves monitoring vital sign and ECG changes while the patient undergoes protocol with increased exertion.
Holter monitoring, which is a continuous cardiac recording to detect arrhythmias, or disturbances in the rhythm of the heart, also requires advanced training. The technician's role at the initiation of the test is to place electrodes on the patient's chest and attach them to a portable ECG monitor, that the patient carries. After a number of hours (24 or more) the patient returns, and the technician removes the recorded material from the ECG monitor for interpretation. This is usually a tape device. The technician also checks the quality of the recorded electrical activity and prints a report to be interpreted by the physician.
Technician run open-access stress testing has shown to be useful in resource optimization. One report has suggested that technician-reported ECG's prevent medical error by house officers in the emergency department setting.
The position is generally unlicensed and skills are learned on the job; however, two- and four-year training programs to learn advanced ECG technical skills are available at junior colleges and community colleges.
In the United States in 2004, there were 45,000 employed cardiovascular technicians, with 75% of jobs in the hospital setting.