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Career Guide: Cardiovascular Technologists and Technician

Career Guide: Cardiovascular Technologists and Technician

U. S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Vascular Technology

Technicians who assist physicians in the diagnosis of disorders affecting the circulation are known as vascular technologists or vascular sonographers. Vascular technologists complete patients’ medical history, evaluate pulses and assess blood flow in arteries and veins by listening to the vascular flow sounds for abnormalities, and assure the appropriate vascular test has been ordered. Then they perform a noninvasive procedure using ultrasound instruments to record vascular information such as vascular blood flow, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, cerebral circulation, peripheral circulation, and abdominal circulation. Many of these tests are performed during or immediately after surgery. Vascular technologists then provide a summary of findings to the physician to aid in patient diagnosis and management.

More on Cardiovascular Techs


Salary: $29,900 - $55,670
Min. Education: Associate's, Bachelor's
Related Careers: Radiologic Technologist & Technician, Respiratory Therapist

Echocardiography

This area of practice includes giving electrocardiograms (EKGs) and sonograms of the heart. Cardiovascular technicians who specialize in EKGs, stress testing, and those who perform Holter monitor procedures are known as cardiographic or electrocardiograph (or EKG) technicians.

To take a basic EKG, which traces electrical impulses transmitted by the heart, technicians attach electrodes to the patient’s chest, arms, and legs, and then manipulate switches on an EKG machine to obtain a reading. An EKG is printed out for interpretation by the physician. This test is done before most kinds of surgery or as part of a routine physical examination, especially on persons who have reached middle age or who have a history of cardiovascular problems.

EKG technicians with advanced training perform Holter monitor and stress testing. For Holter monitoring, technicians place electrodes on the patient’s chest and attach a portable EKG monitor to the patient’s belt. Following 24 or more hours of normal activity by the patient, the technician removes a tape from the monitor and places it in a scanner. After checking the quality of the recorded impulses on an electronic screen, the technician usually prints the information from the tape for analysis by a physician. Physicians use the output from the scanner to diagnose heart ailments, such as heart rhythm abnormalities or problems with pacemakers.

For a treadmill stress test, EKG technicians document the patient’s medical history, explain the procedure, connect the patient to an EKG monitor, and obtain a baseline reading and resting blood pressure. Next, they monitor the heart’s performance while the patient is walking on a treadmill, gradually increasing the treadmill’s speed to observe the effect of increased exertion. Like vascular technologists and cardiac sonographers, cardiographic technicians who perform EKG, Holter monitor, and stress tests are known as “noninvasive” technicians.

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Technologists who use ultrasound to examine the heart chambers, valves, and vessels are referred to as cardiac sonographers, or echocardiographers. They use ultrasound instrumentation to create images called echocardiograms. An echocardiogram may be performed while the patient is either resting or physically active. Technologists may administer medication to physically active patients to assess their heart function. Cardiac sonographers also may assist physicians who perform transesophageal echocardiography, which involves placing a tube in the patient’s esophagus to obtain ultrasound images.

Work Environment

People in cardiovascular technologist careers spend a lot of time walking and standing. Heavy lifting may be involved to move equipment or transfer patients. These workers wear heavy protective aprons while conducting some procedures. Those who work in catheterization laboratories may face stressful working conditions because they are in close contact with patients with serious heart ailments. For example, some patients may encounter complications that have life-or-death implications.


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