Enrolling Now For Upcoming Classes


Close this search box.

How Can I Become an EKG Technician?

Are you interested in becoming an EKG technician? Ready to learn how to administer the EKG? There’s more than one pathway to becoming an EKG technician, but enrolling in a vocational Medical Assistant program is a great way. You’ll graduate in as little as 7 ½ months attending full-time. This is less time than it would take to get a 2- or 4-year degree at a traditional college.

What Is an EKG?

An EKG, or ECG, is an electrocardiogram. It’s a simple test that maps electrical activity in the heart through leads applied to the body’s surface. Heartbeats are recorded as waves, each corresponding to a different phase of the cardiac cycle:

P Wave – starts when the sinoatrial node fires an electrical impulse.

Q Wave – measures the impulse as it travels through the septum, the bridge between the right and left sides of the heart muscle.

R Wave – the tallest peak on a normal EKG, reflecting the contraction of the left ventricle.

S Wave – occurs as the lower chambers of the heart muscle depolarize, and the right ventricle contracts, forcing blood through the lungs.

T Wave – marks the end of the cardiac cycle as the ventricles relax.

There are two types of EKGs that medical assistants perform. The first is a standard 12-lead EKG that gives doctors a two-dimensional view of heart function. The second is a portable Holter monitoring device for patients who experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or palpitations during activity. Worn for up to two weeks, Holter monitors can catch abnormalities that regular EKGs miss.

What Do Doctors Learn from EKGs?

An EKG is a diagnostic test used to assess cardiac function and diagnose disorders, such as:

Heart dysrhythmias — abnormalities in the heart rate and rhythm

Ischemia — chest pain resulting from decreased blood supply to the heart muscle

Electrolyte imbalances — high or low levels of mineral ions that regulate heart function

Cardiomyopathy — thickening of the heart chamber walls secondary to heart failure or high blood pressure

Heart attacks — the death of heart muscle due to coronary artery blockages

A quick, painless, and inexpensive test, the EKG is among the fastest ways to detect a heart attack.

How Does a Medical Assistant Administer an EKG?

Depending on where a medical assistant works, they may perform EKG tests occasionally or do many per week, managing the process from start to finish. The steps include:

Step #1: Preparing the EKG Equipment

Preparing for an EKG begins by setting up the equipment and gathering supplies. The medical assistant performs quality control checks on the EKG to ensure it runs properly.

Electronic devices in the room, such as microwaves and fans, can interfere with tracings and should be turned off during testing. Next, the medical assistant collects the necessary supplies, including electrode pads and leads.

Step #2: Prescreening Patients

EKGs are performed when the client is lying down, but some people may need accommodation. Patients with congestive heart failure may struggle to breathe when lying flat, while others are wheelchair users and can’t be transferred. However, proper positioning improves patient cooperation and contributes to good results.

Step #3: Patient Education

Patients are anxious about tests regardless of how simple they are, but you can make them comfortable by explaining the procedure. Getting the best results requires patients to follow simple cues and remain still. Reviewing the process step-by-step with the patient increases the likelihood of success.

Step #4: Physical Preparation

The medical assistant will ask patients to turn off their cell phones and remove their metal jewelry, including body piercings that may interfere with the EKG. They offer the patient loose-fitting garments to make electrode placement easier and help them change, if necessary while protecting their privacy.

Cleansing the skin with rubbing alcohol helps the electrode pads stick better. Pads come pre-moistened with a tacky solution, so the medical assistant will wait until the patient is ready so that the pads don’t dry out. The medical assistant will help patients get on the exam table and make them comfortable. Parents can stay with their children to keep them relaxed.

Step #5: Perform the EKG

To do the EKG, the medical assistant will position the electrode pads as directed for a 12-lead EKG and attach the color-coded leads, making sure they’re secure. They will prepare the EKG machine. The medical assistant will instruct the patient to take a deep breath and stay still until they’re told the test is done. It takes about 10 seconds to complete the tracing.

The medical assistant will let the patient breathe while checking the reading quality. They repeat the tracing if there’s too much artifact or distortion. Medical assistants don’t interpret EKGs. However, with experience, they can identify emergencies. Unexpected results should be brought to the doctor right away.

Step #5: Aftercare

After the test, the medical assistant will disconnect the leads and remove the electrode pads. The medical assistant will help patients with mobility impairments to change their clothes and gather their belongings.

The medical assistant will explain who to contact for results and what to do if they have problematic symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath. They will collect used linens and supplies to prevent the spread of infection. They will also clean and sanitize the space for the next patient.

Step #6: Recordkeeping

When the EKG is complete, the test is kept in electronic health records for doctors to review. The medical assistant will either print out a strip and tape it in the patient’s chart or save it digitally, and the results are automatically uploaded to the patient’s electronic health records.

If another doctor referred the patient, the medical assistant may need to forward the results with the patient’s consent.

How Can I Become an EKG Technician?

Vocational schools offer Medical Assistant programs to prepare for entry-level positions. The curriculum covers the required skills needed to perform EKGs. Training is quick but complete. Students practice in the classroom and the field using the latest EKG equipment. Clinical experiences will help them build confidence to complete their first EKG successfully.

Want to Learn More?

The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice. The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in an actual medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in an actual medical environment, supervised and taught to gain valuable on-the-job training.

The Medical Assistant training program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, 9355 – 113th St. N, #7709 Seminole, FL 33775, upon the recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB).

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a medical assistant in Nassau and Suffolk County.