“Heart” Work – Nursing on a Telemetry Unit in NYC

Sophie Ouyang, NUR’23, New Hyde Park, NY

This summer I had the opportunity to work as a student nurse intern on a telemetry unit at the Mount Sinai Morningside hospital in Manhattan. Telemetry refers to heart rhythm monitoring. Along with the rhythm of the heart, telemetry monitors often track vital signs including heart rate and oxygen saturation. People who are on a telemetry floor often have cardiovascular impairments. Because the function of the heart dictates the function of every part of the body, patients whose hearts are not pumping blood at a normal rate, rhythm, and amount are very physiologically unstable. This puts them at high risk for dysrhythmias and other abnormal metabolic states that can be imminently life-threatening. Common conditions that patients on our floor had include stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart failure, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, kidney failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Having never been on a telemetry unit in my clinical rotations for nursing school, I learned a lot not only about cardiovascular diseases and related skills such as performing bedside electrocardiograms (EKGs) and distinguishing heart rhythms, but also learned about all of the nuanced details telemetry nurses need to notice and piece together when caring for such physiologically volatile patients.

Chest pain, of any severity, is abnormal and necessitates an EKG to get a more detailed picture of the patient’s heart’s electrical activity. At Morningside, the nurses and patient care technicians perform the EKGs. While providers put in the orders for EKGs, if a patient has sudden chest pain and or shows a sudden change in their heart rhythm on the telemetry monitor, the patient’s safety is always prioritized so the nurse has the discretion to perform the EKG and notify the provider after it is completed. If a patient’s blood pressure becomes severely low, the nurses insert and or check that the patient’s intravenous catheter is patent and prepares IV fluids to have on standby because providers often order them to increase blood volume and thus blood pressure. Any patient who has had a history of falls would raise suspicion of stroke due to hurting their head in the fall and the nurse would pay close attention to residual effects including one-sided weakness and speech difficulties. The foresight, continuous analysis, and responsiveness needed to care for such acute patients is extraordinary. To the nurses on the unit, these ways of thinking were second nature. Working with them this summer has been awe-inspiring to say the least.

Nursing is hard work, mentally and physically, but it is also “heart” work. It requires not only clinical skills but also the care and beneficence to proactively help patients reach their health and personal goals. I am very grateful to have worked with an amazing team of nurses, patient care technicians, and other healthcare workers this summer. I have gained experiences, skills, and invaluable connections and memories with patients and everyone on the telemetry unit at Mount Sinai Morningside. I am extremely thankful for Penn Career Services and all of the donors who made it possible for me to pursue this opportunity.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services