A cardiovascular technologist is a trained professional in cardiovascular imaging. In their job a cardiovascular technologist preforms tests that help diagnose and monitor cardiac or vascular problems. Cardiovascular technologist can choose to specialize in any of the following areas:
- Invasive cardiology
- Cardiac sonography
- Vascular technology/sonography
What duties do cardiovascular technologists have?
In practice, a cardiovascular technologist may preform any of the following activities:
- Interview and record medical history and other supporting clinical data. Preform procedures (e.g. Echocardiogram) and record data for interpretation by a physicians.
- Prepare patients for procedures. Participate in cardiovascular catheterization and/or cardiac electrophysiology procedures such as balloon angioplasty, stent insertion, radiofrequency ablation, and pacemaker and/or implantable defibrillator insertion. You may be asked to do things like:
- Connect a patient to monitoring equipment in preparation for a procedure. Inject contrast into a patient during a procedure. Operate equipment like an ECG machine.
- Assist in the operation of a balloon during an angioplasty. Assist in implantable device procedures like pacemakers or cardiac defibrillators. Hand supplies to a physician over a sterile field during a procedure.
- Participate in emergency treatment of a patient or “code” and preform CPR and other basic life support activities.
What qualities does a great cardiovascular technologist have?
- Great communication skills are essential for a successful cardiovascular technologist. Patients will often be significantly stressed due to the potential discovery of a serious health problem. Being able to effectively communicate what will happen to a patient in a plain and simple manner will help the patient relax and placed at ease. Additionally, good communication skills are important when communicating with a physician.
- The ability to follow detailed instructions is essential for successful cardiovascular technologists. Whether preforming echocardiography, noninvasive provocative testing, or assisting in an invasive procedure, attention to detail is essential. All of the testing you may do will require that you follow strict protocols and take certain steps in a certain order. As a result you will need to be able to pay close attention to detail and be able to work with little direct supervision.
- Confidence is essential. You cannot be scared to work in difficult situations with critically ill patients. Working with cardiologists and cardiac surgeons can also be intimidating for some people. When working in critical care areas it can also be necessary to sometimes have a thick skin and be sure of yourself. It is important to think and act quickly while making appropriate decisions.
Pros of cardiovascular technology
- High job growth potential. You will be participating as an important part of a healthcare team providing cardiovascular imaging. This is also a growth industry with employment expected to expand by 29% from 2010 to 2020.
- Predictable schedule if you work in an outpatient facility. If you are employed in an outpatient facility you will likely have very predictable schedule.
Cons of cardiovascular technology
- Stamina and Strength. As a cardiovascular technologist you will be on your feet a lot. Some heavy lifting may be involved when transferring patients.
- Potential back problems. If you are working in a cardiac cath lab, you will likely be required to wear a lead apron, which can lead to back problems over many years.
- Emotional stress. Because some of your patients will have significant health conditions or be acutely ill, emotional stress may be a factor in your job.
- Unpredictability of scheduling if you work in a hospital. You will work odd hours or take call in order to respond to health emergencies since heart disease may to adhere to a 9 to 5 schedule. Additionally, you may be required to live within so many minutes of your hospital if you need to be able to respond to emergencies.
While it is possible to get on the job training, most cardiovascular technologists get at least an associates degree and many employers require professional certification as a condition of employment. Most training programs last 2 years with the first year being core courses and the second allowing for a year of specialization.
Training courses cover general courses in anatomy, biology, pathophysiology, biochemistry and other related topics. There will be also advanced courses covering cardiology in more depth. Programs will also require a certain number of clinical training hours so that you can acquire specific practical skills in the field.
Certification is currently available from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Certification may require certain educational prerequisites, a certain number of hours working in the field, and passing some time of board exam that requires you to demonstrate knowledge in the field. Additionally, some states may require that you be licensed. You will need to contact the state where you intend to practice.
If you are going to travel and work in a high acuity area like the cath lab, you need to make sure that you have sufficient experience. You will want enough experience that you can function autonomously in the area before traveling.
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Some cardiovascular technologists are paid by the hour, while others are paid a yearly salary. The median hourly wage is $23.74 per hour and the median salaried income is $49,410. Median salary the the yearly salary where half of all cardiovascular technologists earn more than this salary and half earn less.
Comparing cardiovascular technology to other Similar Fields
Cardiovascular technologist positions can be similar to other positions as an ultrasound sonographer or a technologist in cat scan, MRI, or a sleep lab. The main difference will be that your education may focus on a different body system and the technology you learn will be slightly different.
Cardiovascular Technology Travel
Cardiovascular technologists are in great demand which means that travel opportunities are also plentiful. In general, salaries for traveling cardiovascular technologists are higher than regular full time staff position as the services are in great demand. You also have an incredible amount of control with the ability to take long or short term assignments. Finally, you may also be able to significantly reduce your expenses since lodging and travel is often included in travel positions.
There are also some real professional benefits as well. By traveling you get more opportunities to learn. Practicing with different clinicians is an opportunity to learn new techniques and share your current knowledge. Traveling to different places and seeing how things are done in multiple facilities also means more opportunity and experience if you decide to seek a leadership position in the future.
By Pat F. Bass III, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.
Pat is a board certified General Internist and Pediatrician He has served as a reviewer for leading national publications including Pediatrics, the Journal of General Internal Medicine and the Annals of Internal Medicine. Pat is also the asthma guide to About.com, a New York Times Company. Learn more about Pat on Google+