Telemetry Nursing: Interview with Michelle Sok, RN

My Specialty

Telemetry Nursing: Interview with Michelle Sok, RN

Interpreting data from machines to monitor and care for patients

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN
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Where are you employed and what is your position?
I am employed at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. I became a charge nurse in July of 2011.

Tell us about your nursing career.

I started with a midwifery program for one year after graduating from a nursing school in Korea. Then I transferred to the Anesthesia Department in the O.R. A few years later, I became a charge nurse in the O.R. I came to America in 1989 and started working in 1992. And in 1993, I started working at St. Vincent’s as a telemetry nurse.

What brought you to telemetry as a specialty and what keeps you coming back?
I was familiar with cardiac rhythms when I was working as an anesthesia nurse, and when I saw an opening in telemetry, I applied. I like the telemetry unit because I enjoy the speedy analysis and quick actions required. It’s hard but it’s a good fit for me.

What is most challenging about telemetry?
Telemetry nursing requires total care, which involves physical, emotional, and even spiritual care as well, because the heart is immediately affected not only by physical problems but also by the emotional condition of the patient. So, the telemetry nurse needs to be able to pick up on patients’ problems through a comprehensive approach. It’s hard and very challenging.

Are there special certifications that you recommend?

Basically, ACLS is required of all telemetry nurses. If you have advanced EKG certification or knowledge, it will greatly enhance your confidence.

How is technology is impacting your work in telemetry?

Thanks to technological advances, the work in telemetry has become a lot more efficient. For example, blood tests for cardiac enzymes have gotten faster, and portable two-dimensional echo-cardiogram machines have become smaller in size with better functions, so we can perform these tests at the bedside.
Is there a patient anecdote or story that illustrates your work well (without violating HIPAA, of course!)
SVMC is famous for open-heart surgery, so our unit has a lot of cardio-thoracic cases. There was an elderly woman who had chest tubes after her open-heart surgery, and she was very confused the night she came to our unit. It turned out that in her confusion on that first night, she pulled out all of her tubes. Thanks to the alertness of our team, we were able to catch it soon enough and treat her immediately. As a result she did not develop any side effects, such as a pneumothorax or infection. We were very happy that we were able to discharge her within the expected time frame. We have so many cases that demonstrate the successful results of good teamwork.

Any words of advice for those interested in this career path?
Total care has been receiving a great deal of attention in modern nursing. However, the reality is that the industry has become so specialized and fast-paced that we end up not being able to see the forest for the trees. Nevertheless, telemetry nurses can find their jobs quite rewarding, in my opinion, if they are willing to learn to look at the physical, psychological and emotional needs of their patients.

ABOVE PHOTO: Charge Nurse Michelle Sok (behind) and her team. From left to right: C.J. Cadiz, Laura Leon, Lizy Tuliao, Soonki Choi, Sheril Caraan. 


Did You Know?

Telemetry Nursing Overview
In telemetry units, a number of computerized devices monitor vital signs, oxygen levels, electrocardiograms and other important physiological functions, and one of the telemetry nurse’s primary responsibilities is to be astute in reading, assessing and interpreting what the monitors reveal. While the monitors for these devices are generally located in a central location, the telemetry nurse also provides bedside care and regular physical assessments.

Cardiac patients are often transferred to telemetry units following acute cardiac events and surgery, and these patients generally require constant vigilance and finely-honed clinical skills.

All telemetry nurses must have training in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), but others also pursue Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) and Progressive Care Critical Nurse (PCCN) certifications. Some take their continuing education and professional development further by seeking certifications in cardiac telemetry and critical care nursing.

To qualify for CCRN certification, applicants must pass a 150-question, 3-hour certification exam, and eligible nurses must log 1,750 hours “in direct bedside care of acutely or critically ill patients within the last two years preceding the date of application, with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application,” according to the AACN website.

PCCN certification requires a 125-question, 2½ hour certification exam and the same accrual of specialized patient care required for CCRN certification. The AACN Certification Corporation can be contacted at:

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