When considering a career in the medical field, it is important to understand the different roles and responsibilities of various healthcare professionals. Two common vocations in this field are EKG technicians and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) providers. While both careers involve working with patients and monitoring their vital signs, there are significant differences between the two. In this blog post, we will explore the distinctions between EKG and PALS, including job descriptions, education and training requirements, and career outlooks.

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The healthcare industry offers a wide range of career opportunities, each with its own unique set of skills and responsibilities. EKG technicians and PALS providers are both vital members of the medical team, but their roles and training differ significantly.

What is an EKG and PALS?

EKG (Electrocardiogram)

An EKG technician is responsible for operating electrocardiogram machines to monitor and record the electrical activity of a patient's heart. This non-invasive test helps doctors diagnose and treat various heart conditions. EKG technicians are trained to attach electrodes to a patient's chest, limbs, and sometimes, even the face, to obtain accurate readings. They then analyze the data and report any irregularities to the medical team.

PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support)

PALS providers are healthcare professionals who are trained to provide specialized care to critically ill or injured children. They learn advanced life support skills, such as CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), defibrillation, and managing airways. PALS providers work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, pediatric clinics, and emergency rooms, where they respond to emergencies involving pediatric patients.

Difference between an EKG and PALS

The main difference between an EKG technician and a PALS provider lies in the scope of their responsibilities and the patient population they serve.

EKG Technician

  • Focuses on monitoring and recording the electrical activity of a patient's heart.
  • Works with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.
  • Typically works in hospitals, clinics, or diagnostic imaging centers.
  • Collaborates with doctors and nurses to interpret EKG readings and assist in diagnosing heart conditions.
  • May also perform stress tests and Holter monitoring.

PALS Provider

  • Specializes in providing advanced life support to critically ill or injured children.
  • Works exclusively with pediatric patients, ranging from newborns to adolescents.
  • Often employed in pediatric hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics.
  • Trained to respond to emergencies such as cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and severe trauma in children.
  • Collaborates with a team of healthcare professionals to stabilize and treat pediatric patients.

EKG vs PALS: Job Description

EKG Technician

EKG technicians play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring heart conditions. Their job responsibilities include:

  • Preparing patients for EKG tests by explaining the procedure and ensuring their comfort.
  • Attaching electrodes to the patient's chest, limbs, and face to record heart activity.
  • Operating EKG machines to obtain accurate readings.
  • Collaborating with doctors and nurses to interpret and analyze EKG results.
  • Recognizing and reporting any abnormalities or irregularities in the EKG readings.
  • Maintaining and calibrating EKG equipment.

PALS Provider

PALS providers are responsible for providing advanced life support to critically ill or injured children. Their job responsibilities include:

  • Assessing and managing the airway of pediatric patients.
  • Performing CPR and using defibrillators when necessary.
  • Administering medications and fluids to stabilize patients.
  • Collaborating with a team of healthcare professionals to develop and implement treatment plans.
  • Communicating with patients' families and providing emotional support.
  • Documenting all procedures, medications, and patient responses accurately.

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EKG vs PALS: Education and Training

EKG Technician

To become an EKG technician, individuals typically need to complete the following steps:

  1. High School Diploma or GED: The first step is to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent.
  2. EKG Technician Training Program: Many vocational schools and community colleges offer EKG technician training programs. These programs generally last around 4-6 months and cover topics such as medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, and EKG interpretation.
  3. Certification: While certification is not always required, many employers prefer to hire certified EKG technicians. The most recognized certification in this field is the Certified EKG Technician (CET) credential offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To become certified, individuals must pass a comprehensive exam.

PALS Provider

Becoming a PALS provider involves the following steps:

  1. Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification: PALS providers must first obtain BLS certification, which covers basic life-saving skills such as CPR and using an automated external defibrillator (AED). BLS certification is typically a prerequisite for PALS training.
  2. PALS Training: PALS training is more specialized and focuses on advanced life support techniques specific to pediatric patients. This training is available through organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) and includes both theoretical and hands-on components.
  3. PALS Certification: After completing the PALS training course, individuals can take the PALS certification exam to become certified providers. Certification must be renewed every two years to stay current.

EKG vs PALS: Career Outlook and Salary

EKG Technician

The career outlook for EKG technicians is promising, with job opportunities expected to grow in the coming years. Factors contributing to this growth include an aging population and an increased focus on preventive healthcare. EKG technicians can find employment in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic laboratories.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including EKG technicians, was $58,730 in May 2020. The highest 10 percent earned more than $92,070, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,710.

PALS Provider

PALS providers who specialize in pediatric care can expect a positive career outlook as well. The demand for healthcare professionals trained in pediatric advanced life support continues to grow, particularly in hospital settings and emergency rooms.

As for salary, the BLS does not provide specific data for PALS providers. However, the median annual wage for all healthcare practitioners and technical occupations was $68,190 in May 2020. The highest 10 percent earned more than $125,440, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,920.

Final Thoughts

Both EKG technicians and PALS providers play essential roles in the healthcare industry. While EKG technicians focus on monitoring and analyzing heart activity, PALS providers specialize in providing advanced life support to critically ill or injured children. The career paths for both professions offer unique opportunities to make a difference in patients' lives.

When considering a career in either field, it is important to evaluate your interests, skills, and long-term goals. Researching the educational requirements, job descriptions, and career outlooks can help you make an informed decision and choose the path that best suits your aspirations.

Dreambound's programs are accessible in different locations. For additional details on these two vocations, please visit:

Keziah Lim
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Keziah Lim
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