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Northside Hospital Forsyth reaps benefits of UNG's Professional and Continuing Education EKG Technician Program

When Northside Hospital Forsyth in Cumming, Georgia, centralized its EKG, or electrocardiogram, and telemetry monitoring systems, it ran into an unexpected obstacle.

"When we were looking for qualified candidates, we were challenged to find a candidate pool with the right kind of educational background and experience," said Amy Browning, manager of Cardiology Services at Northside Hospital Forsyth.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Division of Professional and Continuing Education had the answer. It could supply trained technicians through its EKG technician program, which involved 50 hours of course work during an eight-week period.

"We found the course taught at UNG mirrors the course that we offered internally at Northside," Browning said.

The result was UNG and Northside formed a partnership. UNG offered the EKG technician program while Northside furnished a job shadowing program for students after the course. The intended outcome was the hospital potentially hiring the students after they passed the test and earned certification.

That has already happened. Northside hired Carly Hall of Marietta, Georgia, and Sarah Harris of Cumming after they completed the training course, passed the certification test and finished an internship.

"They have become integrated into the team," Browning said. "They are active and engaged. The comprehensive didactic education the candidates received at UNG really offered good foundation in ECG and cardiac monitoring."

On an average day, Hall and Harris sit in a room and watch the real-time results of telemetry monitors on 150 patients. They notify doctors and nurses of any changes of the EKG, which measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat.

"The monitor tech position is an integral position to care for our cardiac patients," Browning said. "They are our air-traffic controllers, functioning as the eyes and ears of our physicians and nurses."

Hall and Harris said they enjoy their work.

"I've fallen in love with this," said Hall, who has always wanted to work in the medical field and aspires to work in a catheterization lab. "Telemetry and EKG monitoring is a stepping stone to the cath lab."

Harris knew she wanted to work in the medical field but was uncertain about her path. Her mother, who is a neo-natal nurse at Northside, heard about the EKG technician program at UNG and encouraged her daughter to pursue it.

"What appealed to me was it was a short training program," Harris said. "Then I could get in here and find out if I like it."

She liked the work and loved the class.

"Our instructor was fantastic," Harris said. "She was encouraging."

Hall agreed.

"She not only taught us what we needed to know, but she also taught us how to work with nurses and doctors and what to expect," she said.

Brooke Smith, associate director of the Division of Professional and Continuing Education at UNG, said establishing partnerships between UNG and other businesses is part of its mission.

"We want to be seen as a resource for businesses, industries and government for workforce development especially in the fields that are part of the Governors High Demand Career Initiative," she said.

Another part of Professional and Continuing Education's mission is to provide quick entry career training to help residents advance in their careers or find a new career. The partnership between UNG's EKG technician program and Northside exemplifies that point.

"The goal is for students to go through the program and have the ability to work at a renowned hospital," Smith said.

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