As you look at career options in the nursing field, you may be asking whether or not you need a Master’s in nursing to be a telemetry nurse. Telemetry nurses monitor patient welfare via electronic devices that measure patient vital signs and other important medical information. Usually this kind of monitoring is done within a hospital, often in critical care or step-down units.
Becoming a Telemetry Nurse
Like any other nursing specialty, becoming a telemetry nurse starts with becoming a registered nurse (RN). RNs are those who have passed the national licensing exam called the NCLEX. You can take the exam after completing some form of nurses training that has culminated in a diploma/certificate, an associates degree or a bachelors degree. Although many nurses begin with a lower level degree, since 1980 there has been a significant increase in the number of nurses who have gone on to at least the bachelors level with their education. Once you have become an RN, if you are interested in becoming a telemetry nurse, it will be important for you to gain work experience in a progressive care unit. Sometimes nurses who are new to the field can shadow more experienced nurses to learn important skills and gain confidence.
Telemetry falls under the nursing specialty called progressive care, and RNs who have at least 1,750 hours of experience in a progressive care unit can qualify to take the progressive care nurse certification exam. 875 of your pertinent work hours will need to be within a year of the time you sit for the exam.
The Role and Tasks of a Telemetry Nurse
Telemetry nurses are needed to monitor, record and sometimes interpret electronically collected patient data. So if you are planning to move into this specialty, you will need a comfort level with and interest in technology. You will need to be competent in monitoring important information like patient vital signs, heart rate, breathing patterns and the saturation of oxygen in the blood. Patients requiring this kind of monitoring generally need it following surgery or other invasive procedures. This monitoring takes place in critical/intensive care units or in step-down units where patients are moved when they’ve recovered enough to leave CCU but still need extra care. Telemetry nurses are trained to recognize emergencies in heart or breathing issues and to be able to begin appropriate responses. They also need to have skills in monitoring medications that affect heart and respiratory functions.
Although you do not need a masters degree in order to qualify as a progressive care certified nurse (PCCN) you will need to participate in continuing education and renew your certification every three years. Clinical nurse specialists who hold a Master’s level degree may work in the area of progressive care, but certification processes will be different. A good resource for understanding your educational and professional options is the website for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN).
The need for telemetry nurses is strong, especially since step-down units are becoming more prevalent. You don’t need a Master’s in nursing to be a telemetry nurse, but there are steps you can take as an undergraduate and working RN to get involved in this growing and important nursing field.