Cardiovascular technicians and technologists work within the allied health care field, helping physicians as they diagnose and treat heart-related conditions and illnesses in patients. Specifically, they use technology to help create images of and around the heart or carry out other procedures to help doctors in providing care. Additionally, they may sometimes be responsible for assisting doctors and surgeons in specific surgical procedures. As a result of the increased use of imaging technology and a growing preference for non-invasive procedures, their skills could be high demand in upcoming years.
Responsibilities of Cardiovascular Technicians
Expectations for the cardiovascular technician can vary from job to job, but often they need to:
- Explain procedures to patients
- Obtain and record medical history from the patient
- Determine equipment settings and ensure it is operating correctly
- Adjust the patient's position during the procedure, if needed
- Be able to see the difference between normal and abnormal imagery
Invasive cardiology -- These technicians assist physicians with the procedures associated with cardiac catheter implants where a catheter is passed through/threaded from the patient's groin, through the artery, to the heart.
Non-invasive technology -- These technicians specialize in vascular technology or echocardiography and perform non-invasive tests, which do not require insertion of probes or instruments into a patient's body. Ultrasound, the use of high-frequency sound waves applied to a specific area of a patient's body, is considered non-invasive.
Vascular technology -- These technologists use various procedures to capture and record vascular information, such as blood flow and oxygen saturation.
Electrocardiography -- These workers obtain electrocardiograms (or EKGs) of a patient's heart. The objective for the technician is to trace the electrical impulses that are transmitted by the heart.
Echocardiography -- This branch make use of ultrasound to examine heart chambers, valves, and vessels.
Job Characteristics of Cardiovascular Technicians
A cardiovascular technician usually works 40 hours a week, sometimes even on the weekends. Individuals who work in catheterization laboratories may need to work into the evening or be on-call. Those employed in the field may:
- Need to physically move or lift equipment or transfer a patient
- Feel stress working with patients who have critical heart ailments or who are in life-or-death situations
- Be on their feet for long periods of time
- Experience, eye, neck or back strain and potentially carpel tunnel syndrome
Skills that are preferable in a cardiovascular technician include:
- Strong communication
- Interpersonal abilities
- Mechanical aptitude
- Ability to follow instructions
Cardiovascular Technician Salary and Employment
The Bureau of Labors Statistics (BLS) reported the following data regarding cardiovascular technologists and technicians:
- Total Employed: 51,080 people, in 2014
- Job Growth: 30% growth, from 2012 to 2022
- Average Salary: $55,210 in 2014
Job opportunities could be the best for those who are certified (see more below), according to the BLS. Also, those working in Alaska, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, had average wages all above $67,000.
Education, Certification and Licensing
An associate degree is typically needed to enter the field as a technician or technologist, although a four-year bachelor's degree may be beneficial. A one-year certificate can be helpful to those already employed in healthcare. In a degree program, students may take courses that include:
- Medical Terminology
- The Applied Sciences
Certification is often preferred by employers and can be found through organizations like Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). There are numerous types of certification exams available, allowing individuals to specialize in specific areas, such as advanced cardiac sonography or certified rhythm analysis.
Licensing is not generally required, but for those states that do require it, certification is usually part of the process. However, requirements do vary state to state.
Major Cardio Tech Employers
- Diagnostic imaging centers
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- Mobile diagnostic units
- Medical centers
- Physicians offices
Resources for Cardiovascular Technicians
- American Society of Echocardiography
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International
- Society for Vascular Ultrasound
- Society of Medical Diagnostic Songography
- Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292031.htm
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm