Cardiovascular technologists and technicians are assistants to physicians who diagnose and treat cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments. There are 3 areas that they may specialize in: invasive cardiology, echocardiography, and vascular technology. Besides this technical work, he or she may do office work, including keeping the doctor's appointment calendars, typing the doctors' interpretations, and maintaining the equipment.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians filled approximately 45,000 jobs in 2004. About 75% of these jobs were in hospitals (private and government), primarily in cardiology departments. They also worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories, including diagnostic imaging centers and in doctors' offices, including cardiologists.
Most are trained in 2- to 4-year programs, usually in 2 year courses at junior or community colleges. Four year programs are becoming more available. Some are trained on the job. If one is qualified in an allied health profession, then only the year of specialized instruction is needed. In certain areas, such as for EKG technicians the training is on the job, usually for 8 to 16 weeks.
There are currently 33 programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology. If you graduate from one of these programs, you are eligible to obtain professional certification.
Besides the technical qualifications, an employer is likely to give strong consideration to a person's reliability, their mechanical aptitude, and ability to follow detailed instructions. It is also useful to have a pleasant, relaxed manner for the patient's peace of mind.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians must be able to:
• prepare patients for cardiac catheterization
• monitor patients' blood pressure and heart rate
• have good communication and record-keeping skills
• be physically fit and capable to work in stressful conditions.
Job growth for cardiovascular technologists and technicians will increase much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. This will be partly because of an aging population and because of technical advances mean less need for costlier procedures.
How Much Do Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians Earn?
Median annual earnings were $38,690 in May 2004, with half of those in the field earning between $27,890 and $50,130. The lowest salaries were under $21,790, and the highest were more than $59,000.
A Day in a Cardiovascular Technologist's Life
On a typical day a Cardiovascular technologist will:
• assist physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiac and peripheral vascular ailments,
• assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures,
• prepare patients for cardiac catheterization and balloon angioplasty,
• monitor patients' blood pressure and heart rate with EKG equipment and notify the physician if something appears to be wrong,
• possibly prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery and during the insertion of pacemakers and stents,
• run noninvasive tests using ultrasound instrumentation, such as Doppler ultrasound,
• perform medical histories,
• possibly administer medication to physically active patients to assess their heart function,
• explain certain procedures to patients, record any additional medical history the patient relates, select appropriate equipment settings, and change the patient's position as necessary,
• perform Holter monitor and stress testing (if they have advanced training).
I hope this article gives you a good idea of what is involved in the career of a cardiovascular technologist or technician. Health care is the largest industry in the world. In the U.S. about 14 million people work in the health care field. More new wage and salary jobs are in health care than in any other industry. (Some figures from Bureau of Labor Statistics.)