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What does a Telemetry Nurse do?

Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A telemetry nurse monitors, records, and interprets data about a patient's vital signs. He or she also provides patient care, educates patients about their conditions, and administers medication. Most of the time, these nurses work with patients who have ongoing health conditions or who are just out of surgery or intensive care. The training for this position varies regionally, but a person almost always has to become a Registered Nurse (RN) before he or she can work in this field.

Duties

Telemetry nurses use different types of technology to monitor patients' blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, breathing patterns, and heart activity, among other things. They also record and interpret the data from the monitors, and use it to assess a patient's rate of recovery or to help doctors determine treatment methods. They commonly dispense medication, and must keep track of all the different medications a person is on to avoid drug interactions. In addition to this, they provide general patient care, assist doctors with procedures, and deal with any emergencies that come up. As patients recover, a telemetry nurse also educates them about their conditions and how to avoid relapses or potential problems after they leave the healthcare facility.

Work Environment

Work as a telemetry nurse is generally fast-paced, as most are assigned around five patients at a time. Most of the people they care for are in step-down units, which means that they're not so ill as to need intensive care, but they still have a significant risk of complications. Though nurses do a lot of bedside work with patients in this position, they don't spend a lot of time with any one patient, since most only stay in step-down units for a maximum of 10 days. Most patients in these units need around-the-clock monitoring, so healthcare facilities usually hire telemetry nurses for all shifts.

Training

Almost all telemetry nurses are RNs, and most have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing or a closely related subject. In the US, people wanting to specialize in this field must first pass the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) and any other state requirements to become an RN, and then complete a specified number of hours of bedside care experience. After this, they are qualified to take the Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) exam. If they pass this, then they can become a registered telemetry nurse. Though some choose to specialize in one area, such as the monitoring of heart activity, others do not.

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Discussion Comments

By anon989658 — On Mar 16, 2015

@Rallenwriter: You are incorrect. You do not have to have a BSN to be a telemetry nurse. I am an RN with ASN and have worked telemetry for 25 years.

By qazxcvlfp — On Dec 11, 2012

I’m an LPN and I was a Telemetry Nurse - so yes you can be a telemetry nurse as an LPN, but each state has limits on an LPN’s scope of practice, so some states allow it and others don’t.

In my case, my state did, and I worked the Telemetry desk in a Cardiac Critical Care Unit. I had to certify in reading telemetry of course, and then in the CCU, I was able to monitored the tele correctly. It does take time to learn to listen and hear the alarms in their various ringtones and be attuned to them at all times. You wouldn’t think that could be tricky, but it can!

I had to especially learn that trick, because I also was required to help any RN that needed a quick hand to do something with a patient, as the rooms were all open and surrounded the tele desk, which also served as the station. (So you see, you were always in hearing distance of the tele alert alarms and knowing which alarm was ringing which notification and what was critically important to check immediately, just in case.)

I also was responsible for double checking charts and entering med orders. The RNs pushed all IV meds/blood/etc. I was allowed by law to administer orals/IM meds/insulins, and also flush heparin locks and other things that an RN may ask me to do for them if they were busy doing something else. And that usually entailed talking to family on the phones, for sure!

So as you can see, I stayed busy, to say the least. I was also encouraged to reinforce patient education and especially run interference with visitors during visiting hours. Since I was working in a sensitive area, I was also required to certify in venipuncture and not only BCLS, but also ACLS.

Personally, I don’t understand why all states do not allow LPNs to do this job, because it’s an area that is always understaffed since a lot of RNs just don’t want to sit on a tele desk and be relegated to only that, but it’s an area where hospitals could definitely utilize qualified, experienced LPNs, and in the process, provide even better patient care.

And besides, LPNs truly need more areas to be allowed to practice in because we have been basically pushed to the side in hospitals, and God knows RNs are pushed to their limits in hospitals! They are constantly short handed and overworked and usually given way too many patients in their assigned patient loads!

RNs could truly use a couple of LPNs on every hospital floor just to be able to pass orals and IM’s and surgical wound care, general patient care and charting, and many other “peripheral” duties to the LPN, thereby allowing the RNs to do other things that are more pressing or time consuming.

I say all this because a lot of hospitals don’t even hire LPNs anymore and when it comes to telemetry nursing, it should be worked into every state as part of LPN practice.

But in the end, this is the fault of our state nursing boards, as they do not advocate for the LPN anymore! If our boards advocated for us LPNs more, and pushed the states to allow this into our scope of practice, then the states would absolutely do it!

But I don’t think RNs want to allow us to be able to do it, kind of like doctors don’t want to give up more “scope of practice” to RNs and nurse practitioners, and that’s just so wrong in the face of shortages and how much RNs already have when it comes to options and scopes of practices that are available to them and not LPNs.

We truly are being relegated out of so many things and we already basically are entirely in hospitals, because so many of them do not even hire us anymore. If state boards would push for the state to allow it, then they would because, for the most part, states do not fight the recommendations and requests of their Nursing and M.D. boards.

Perhaps if LPNs in each state would themselves push their boards to advocate for them to get it included into their scope of practice, then the LPN could actually have a few more choices in the present day nursing field and be more viable and valuable to employers, and maybe in the process, find more work!

By anon294890 — On Oct 03, 2012

I am a nurse from Egypt, and I would like to know how can I take the NCLEX- RN to start work in the USA?

By anon247621 — On Feb 14, 2012

@Rallenwriter: I think it depends on the state and the hospital. I am a new grad with ASN and will start working on a telemetry floor in two weeks.

@ChristyRN: Find out the nursing requirements for hospitals in your area. I have my associate's degree and got a job on a tele unit less than a month after graduation. I did elect to do my preceptorship in ICU, so that may have had something to do with me getting the job. I don't know.

By anon241115 — On Jan 17, 2012

How long does it take to become certified for a telemetry nurse if a person has an ADN?

By anon225218 — On Oct 26, 2011

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.

By anon147829 — On Jan 30, 2011

I have not had any training in telemetry. i came to work one day and they just gave me a phone and said nothing else.

By anon135142 — On Dec 17, 2010

yes, but you will first have to obtain your RN and then get certified.

By anon121776 — On Oct 25, 2010

What do a PCA or CNA (Ky) version of a PCA do on a telemetry unit?

By anon107153 — On Aug 28, 2010

Yes, LPNs can be tele nurses in some areas. It is usually up to the place of employment and state scope of practice. I have been working as a LPN in a telemetry unit for several years. It is a very tough field to be in but once you master reading telemetry, the rest will come with practice.

By anon107058 — On Aug 28, 2010

I am a telemetry nurse on a high acuity floor and I don't have a BSN. I'm at a large health care system in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and to work in tele just requires desire and a clinical manager who is willing to "orient you" and possibly send you to an internship program for a few weeks.

By Planch — On Jul 22, 2010

Do telemetry nurses only monitor cardiac telemetry units, or are they also qualified to monitor different kinds of telemetry systems, like those that monitor neurological or sleep issues?

I know that telemetry techs sometimes specialize; is it the same for telemetry nurses?

By FirstViolin — On Jul 22, 2010

Seems like telemetry nurses have a tough job -- they have to have all the regular nursing skills, plus technology training and a specialized understanding of critical care nursing.

Kudos to all you telemetry nurses out there -- I can't even imagine doing a job as stressful and involved as that.

By rallenwriter — On Jul 22, 2010

@christym -- You have to have an advanced nursing degree to be a telemetry nurse, so you need either a RN to BSN degree or an LPN to BSN degree before you can be a telemetry nurse.

However, there are a lot of programs out there that specialize in just that, and many LPNs go on to specialize in telemetry nursing.

By christym — On Jul 21, 2010

Can LPN's be telemetry nurses?

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