Cardiovascular technicians and technologists help 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. They may also be responsible for assisting doctors and surgeons in specific surgical procedures. Cardiovascular techs often specialize in one of three areas: invasive cardiology, noninvasive technology or vascular technology.
Day in the Life of a Cardiovascular Technician
A cardiovascular technologist may work in any of a variety of settings: doctors' offices, diagnostic imaging centers, hospitals, medical centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and mobile diagnostic units.
On a typical day, a cardiovascular technician:
- Explain procedures to patients.
- Obtain and record medical history from patients.
- Determine equipment settings and ensure it is operating correctly.
- Move or lift patients, or adjust a patient's position during a procedure.
- Distinguish between normal and abnormal cardiac imagery.
A cardiac technician usually works 40 hours a week, sometimes on the weekends. Individuals who work in catheterization laboratories may need to work into the evening or be on-call.
Certain daily responsibilities vary according to the cardiovascular tech's specialty. Here is a breakdown of the duties associated with each specialty:
Invasive cardiology: These technicians assist physicians with cardiac catheter implant procedures where a catheter is passed through/threaded from the patient's groin, through the artery, to the heart.
Noninvasive technology: These technicians specialize in vascular technology or echocardiography and perform noninvasive tests, which don't 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 noninvasive.
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 technician traces the electrical impulses that are transmitted by the heart.
Echocardiography: Ultrasound is used to examine heart chambers, valves and vessels.
Important Characteristics for Cardiovascular Technician
The most successful cardiovascular technologists have a mechanical aptitude and a keen eye for detail. Good communication skills and interpersonal abilities allow them to put their patients' minds at ease during what can be a stressful time. Cardiovascular techs should also be reliable and able to follow directions. They should also have the strength and stamina to stand for long periods of time and lift or move patients.
To start a career as a cardiovascular technologist, most students earn an associate degree from a community college that has an accredited cardiovascular technology program. However, four-year programs are also available for those wishing to further focus their studies.
Licensing is not required in all states, but in states that do require it, certification is usually part of the process. Requirements vary state to state.
States don't require certification to become a cardiovascular technologist. Instead, the health care industry has its own professional standard, which dictates professional credentialing. Many employers require credentialing of prospective employees.
Two agencies offer credentials for cardiovascular technologists:
- The Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)
- The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
Both organizations require that students complete an accredited program before they take the credentialing exams. Continuing education is another requirement for cardiovascular technologists to maintain certification.
Once you've established yourself as a cardiovascular technologist, you can take your career to the next level with these steps:
- Never stop learning: Advanced certifications can increase your chances for advancement and finding better-paying positions. Consider niche areas of study to broaden your professional appeal.
- Maintain your certifications: Continuing education though a cardiovascular technician program can help you stay abreast of current trends and news in your profession and shows your commitment to education.
- Teach others your trade: If you have an aptitude for teaching, consider helping prospective students learn to be cardiovascular technologists.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm
- Summary Report for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2031.00