Career Guide: Cardiovascular Technologists and Technician
U. S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
At a Glance
• Employment is expected to grow much faster than average; technologists and technicians trained to perform certain procedures will be in particular demand.
• About 3 out of 4 jobs are in hospitals.
• The vast majority of workers complete a 2-year junior or community college program.
More on Cardiovascular Techs
Salary: $29,900 - $55,670
Min. Education: Associate's, Bachelor's
Related Careers: Radiologic Technologist & Technician, Respiratory Therapist
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians assist physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians schedule appointments perform ultrasound or cardiovascular procedures, review doctors’ interpretations and patient files, and monitor patients’ heart rates. They also operate and care for testing equipment, explain test procedures, and compare findings to a standard to identify problems. Other day-to-day activities vary significantly between specialties.
Cardiovascular technologist careers usually entail specializations in any of three areas of practice: invasive cardiology, echocardiography, or vascular technology.
Cardiovascular technologists specializing in invasive procedures are called cardiology technologists. They assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures in which a small tube, or catheter, is threaded through a patient’s artery from a spot on the patient’s groin to the heart. The procedure can determine whether a blockage exists in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle. The procedure also can help to diagnose other problems. Part of the procedure may involve balloon angioplasty, which can be used to treat blockages of blood vessels or heart valves without the need for heart surgery. Cardiology technologists assist physicians as they insert a catheter with a balloon on the end to the point of the obstruction. Another procedure using the catheter is electrophysiology test, which help locate the specific areas of heart tissue that give rise to the abnormal electrical impulses that cause arrhythmias.
Technologists prepare patients for cardiac catheterization by first positioning them on an examining table and then shaving, cleaning, and administering anesthesia to the top of their leg near the groin. During the procedures, they monitor patients’ blood pressure and heart rate with EKG equipment and notify the physician if something appears to be wrong. Technologists also may prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery and during the insertion of pacemakers and stents that open up blockages in arteries to the heart and major blood vessels.
Technologists who specialize in vascular technology or echocardiography perform noninvasive tests using. Tests are called “noninvasive” if they do not require the insertion of probes or other instruments into the patient’s body. For example, procedures such as Doppler ultrasound transmit high-frequency sound waves into areas of the patient’s body and then processes reflected echoes of the sound waves to form an image. Technologists view the ultrasound image on a screen and may record the image on videotape or photograph it for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician. As the technologist uses the instrument to perform scans and record images, technologists check the image on the screen for subtle differences between healthy and diseased areas, decide which images to include in the report to the physician, and judge whether the images are satisfactory for diagnostic purposes. They also explain the procedure to patients, record any additional medical history the patient relates, select appropriate equipment settings, and change the patient’s position as necessary.