Cardiovascular Technologist Careers
By Megan Malugani, Monster Contributing Writer
Getting to the heart of what’s ailing patients is the lifeblood of cardiovascular technologists, a highly skilled and in-demand group of imaging professionals who help diagnose and treat cardiac and vascular disorders.
Given the needs of an aging population and technological advances that have reduced reliance on heart surgery for treatment, employment of cardiovascular technologists, who earn roughly $20 to $40 an hour, is expected to grow faster than average through 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More on Cardiovascular Techs
Salary: $29,900 - $55,670
Min. Education: Associate's, Bachelor's
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In particular demand are cardiovascular technologists who specialize in either cardiac sonography, vascular sonography or cardiac catheterization, says Rick Rigling, clinical manager of cardiology at the Regional Heart and Vascular Center at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.
Cardiovascular technologists who use ultrasound to examine the heart and create images called echocardiograms are referred to as cardiac sonographers, or echocardiographers. About half of all cardiac sonographers work in hospitals, and the other half work in physicians’ offices.
Cardiac sonographers, whose work is diagnostic and noninvasive, generally perform about eight to 10 echocardiograms a day, says Rigling, incoming chair of the sonography council for the American Society of Echocardiography. Each case begins when the sonographer reviews a patient’s chart. Then the sonographer spends about 45 minutes performing the ultrasound scan, saving the images digitally or on videotape. Finally, the sonographer creates a preliminary report for a physician to interpret. “You get to put advanced technology to work and see how the heart relates to a patient’s total health,” Rigling says. “But the best part is the one-on-one interaction you have with patients. A good sonographer will let a patient watch and will explain as they work.”
Vascular sonographers, whose focus is broader than that of cardiovascular technologists, scan blood vessels in the neck, legs and arms and record blood flow, blood pressure and other measurements. Some sonographers are getting credentialed to perform both cardiac and vascular ultrasounds, and Rigling predicts the dual-credential movement will gain momentum.
Cardiac and vascular sonographers must be personable, detail-oriented and willing to deal with repetition, Rigling says. “You see different patients and different situations, but essentially you’re doing the same exam over and over.”
Cardiovascular technology professionals who work in hospital cardiac-catheterization laboratories (cath labs) help diagnose and treat heart patients. These cath-lab professionals, known as cardiology technologists, assist physicians with cardiac catheterization, an invasive procedure in which a small tube is wound through a blood vessel into the heart to determine whether a blockage exists. Part of the procedure may involve angioplasty, which can be used to treat blockages without heart surgery.