CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNICIAN JOB DESCRIPTION
Cardiovascular technicians aid doctors in finding and caring for illnesses involving the heart or and blood vessels. The three main specialty fields of cardiovascular technology practice include vascular technology, echocardiography, and invasive cardiology.
Cardiology technologists specialize in invasive operations and procedures. One procedure Doctors are assisted with by cardiology technologists is cardiac catheterizations. The procedure helps doctors find blood vessel blockages. Patients are prepared for these procedures by Cardiovascular technicians who clean, shave, and numb the area near the groin where a catheter is to be inserted.
Echocardiography technicians administer testing on patients using ultrasound equipment. Technicians are responsible for viewing the ultrasound image and finding areas of concern. They choose which images to include on the film for the doctor’s review and decide if the ultrasound images are clear enough for the doctor to make a confident diagnosis.
Vascular sonographers aid physicians with patients suffering from illnesses affecting circulation. They are responsible finding irregularity in blood flow by listening to the blood vessels. Usually accompanying or immediately following an operation, these technologists use ultrasound equipment to record information about a variety of factors, including: brain, limb, and abdominal circulation; blood pressure and flow; the amount of blood located in different parts of the body; and oxygen saturation in the blood.
Sonographers and echocardiographers look at the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels using ultrasound equipment. These ultrasound images are known as echocardiograms, and may be recorded while the patient is exercising or at rest. Physically active patients may be given medication by technologists in order to examine their heart’s proper functioning. When a tube is put into the esophagus of a patient to get ultrasound images, it is called transesophageal echocardiography; cardiac sonographers often help doctors perform this procedure.
Electrocardiograph technicians (also known as EKG technicians) perform EKGs. EKGs follow electric pulses sent by the heart, and are tracked by electrodes placed by the technicians on the patient’s legs, arms, and chest. The technician uses the machine to get the EKG reading and print a copy for the doctor. Middle aged people, those with prior cardiovascular problems, and those about to undergo surgery typically receive an EKG.
Additional duties of some technicians include scheduling appointments, taking diagnosis notes, cleaning and maintaining equipment, and updating patients’ files.
A typical work week is 5 days, 40 hours, and may involve some weekends. Catheterization lab technicians typically work longer hours and may be required to work later into the evening. Depending on the lab, they may be required to be on call over night or over the weekend.
Much of a technician’s time at work is spent standing or walking. Catheterization lab technicians face the most stress as they deal face-to-face with seriously ill patients. Some of their patients may experience problems that may lead to their death.
Cardiovascular Technician and Technologist Career Training and Job Qualifications
The majority of cardiovascular technologists, cardiac sonographers, and vascular technicians complete 2- or 4-year programs, though there are some who still receive their training on-the-job. Technologists and sonographers typically finish a 2-year community college program in which the first year focuses on core subjects. The second year students receive specialized training in their chosen area of practice—noninvasive vascular, invasive, or noninvasive cardiovascular technology. Qualified allied health professionals must complete only the second year of training.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology accredits 29 programs. Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers certification in vascular ultrasound, echocardiography, cardiac catheterization, and cardiographic practices to graduates from the accredited programs. The American Registry of diagnostic medical sonographers offers certification to vascular technologists and cardiac sonographers.
One-year certification programs exist, but the majority of EKG technicians are trained on the job between 8 and 16 weeks to perform basic EKGs, Holter monitoring, and stress tests. Employers usually prefer potential EKG technicians to have work history in the medical field. Two-year technologist students often work part-time as EKG technicians in order to network with employers and gain valuable experience.
Cardiovascular technicians should be able to work with technology, be responsible, and able to follow directions, in addition to having good interpersonal skills.
Cardiovascular Technician Job and Employment Opportunities
Job growth through 2012 is projected to be faster than average for cardiovascular technicians and technologists. Due to the increase of heart disease among older people, much growth will come from the population aging. A decreased demand for invasive techniques due to technological improvements will increase opportunity for echocardiographers and vascular technologists. Demand for new EKG technicians will decrease as other health professionals are trained to perform the same tasks. Holter monitoring and stress test training will increase one’s employment opportunities.
Few new job openings will become available for cardiovascular technologists and technicians due to the job field’s small size; openings will occur when technicians need to be replaced.
In 2002 cardiovascular technicians and technologists earned a median annual income of $36,430. Technologists in hospitals earned slightly less at $35,800. The highest and lowest 10 percent earned $56,080 and $20,920, respectively. The middle two quartiles brought in $26,730 and $46,570.
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