Cardiovascular technicians and cardiovascular technologists generally work in conjunction with a cardiologist or physician in diagnosing heart disease, heart irregularities, and functional issues. Approximately 77% of cardio techs work in hospitals, although some are employed directly by cardiologists.
The median annual salaries in 2008-2009 for cardiovascular technicians and technologists were $47,010. The average salary range was from $32,800 to $61,580. The annual wages of the lowest paid 10% were actually less than $25,510; the highest paid 10% earned $74,760. The average salaries or median annual wages of cardiovascular technologists and technicians were $46,670 in 2008 for those technologists and technicians employed in acute hospitals.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
The different specialties include:
Invasive cardiology – these health professionals are called cardiology technologists. They perform essential assistance to the cardiologist during cardiac catherization procedures. This evaluative procedure involves inserting a small catheter into the artery in the patient’s groin up to the heart. This process will reveal a blockage in the arteries or a thrombosis (blood clot) in a vein that essentially cuts off the blood flow to the heart muscle.
Balloon angioplasties are performed using the same procedure, but an inflated balloon is used to dislodge blockages in the arteries or heart valves; the patient avoids cardiac surgery. Cardiac techs also assist in electrophysiology evaluations, which are instrumental in pinpointing the specific area of the heart tissue that is involved in dysfunctional electrical processes,which cause cardiac arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats. The cardiac tech prepares the patient for the procedure by positioning the patient and administering the lidocaine injection. Additionally, cardiac tech monitor the patient’s vital signs during the procedure. They are trained to monitor patients during cardiac surgery, assist with cardiac stent placements, which removes heart blockages, and facilitate the installation of pacemakers.
Non-invasive cardio technicians who perform cardiac sonograms are called echocardiographers. This technology utilizes sound waves to create an image of the patient’s heart chambers, vessels, and heart valves to reveal abnormalities ,such as mitral valve prolapse, for example.
Vascular cardio technologists provide invaluable assistance in the diagnosis of circulation inconsistencies. They monitor vital signs, take patient histories, perform sonograms, and assist in arteriograms. Cardiographic technicians perform EKGs or electrocardiography. They can conduct Holter monitoring, which is a portable EKG machine that does a tracing of the heart’s reactions during a 24-hour period. Specially trained cardiographic technicians perform stress testing using both the treadmill and chemical stress testing, that uses drugs to artificially place the heart under stress.
The work environment is very pleasant, but clinical. The job involves a considerable amount of walking, standing, and sometimes the lifting of equipment is involved, as well as patient transfers.
Cardio techs that perform invasive cardio technology procedures, such as cardiac catherization, are often under stress. They are responsible for patients with severe and consequential cardiac issues who may conceivably develop life and death complications during the procedure.
Cardia techs that administer stress tests work with radiation. Therefore, they must use caution and follow the radiation handling protocols and safety precautions, such as using the lead aprons. Additionally, those who work with sonography are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal inconsistencies, back strain, and eyestrain.
However, overall, the working environment is professional and pleasant. Often there is an opportunity for overtime, but typically the cardio technician works a 40-hour, 5-day workweek. However many are on call 24 hours a day.
The job outlook is very promising; there is an expected increase in job opportunities through 2018, especially for technicians who are trained to perform a wide range of processes and procedures. The opportunities will increase much faster than other professions. The demand will be due to expected increases in population, the number of baby boomers reaching age 65, and eating habits and sedentary lifestyles resulting in an increase in the incidences of heart disease. As medical science and medical technology advances, the need for trained and qualified cardiac technologists will additionally increase to meet the demand.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Most cardiovascular technologists and technicians earn a two-year associate’s degree from a community college or specialized medical trade school. Students must do clinicals or an internship before graduation. In 2009 the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professions had 34 accredited programs.
Although there is a one-year certification program for EKG technicians, most are trained under an EKG supervisor. Most physicians prefer to train staff already working, such as a medical assistant or nurses aide. This on the job training is typically 18 to 24 months.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians should be pleasant, caring, empathetic, detail oriented, dependable, committed, and responsible. They should genuinely like people, patient, kind, compassionate, be adept at putting others at ease, and have the ability to inspire trust. Communication skills are critical; the candidate must be able to communicate with the patient effectively and the physician
Most states do not require certification, but typically, physicians require graduation from an accredited program and that the employee earn certification in the field. Certification is provided through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). These entities require the cardiovascular technology graduate and technician take the credentialization examination and make a grade of 70% or above in order to be certified.
Other certification organizations include Certified Cardiac Technicians, Registry of Cardiovascular Sonograms, and the Register of Vascular Specialization.
Cardiovascular professional organizations include the American Heart Association and the following:
- Society of Invasive Cardiovascular Professionals (SICP)
- Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventionalists (SCA&I)
- Society of Cardiovascular Professions
- American Society of Echocardiography
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