Cardiovascular technicians conduct tests, create images, and assist with surgical procedures pertaining to the heart. Also called cardiac sonographers, they assist cardiologists with therapeutic interventions and diagnostic examinations for cardiac catheterizations, which is considered invasive cardiology. Cardiovascular technologists also perform echocardiographs, which are non-invasive ultrasounds of the heart. In addition cardiovascular technicians perform non-invasive peripheral vascular procedures called vascular ultrasounds. Cardiovascular technologists are also responsible for reviewing and recording patient history, performing appropriate clinical procedures, and participating in specific cardiovascular procedures. They also evaluate patients’ pulse and blood flow in their arteries and veins, record blood pressure and oxygen saturation, and report their findings to a supervising physician.
Within the field of cardiovascular technology, individuals can opt for certain specializations. Some of these specialties may include invasive or non-invasive duties, and some may require additional training or education. Examples of types of cardiovascular specialties include:
- Invasive Cardiologists
Invasive cardiologists insert small tubes or catheters into a patient’s arteries and into the heart. This procedure determines and treats blockages of the blood vessels and heart valves, which may eliminate the need for heart surgery. Specific types of invasive cardiology procedures include angioplasty and electrophysiology.
- Cardiac Sonographers
Also called echocardiographers, these technicians use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart chambers, valves, and vessels to create echocardiograms or ECHOs. This procedure can be administered to resting or physically active patients; technologists may provide medication to physically active patients to determine their overall heart function.
- EKG Technicians
Also called electrocardiograph technicians, EKG technicians work closely with cardiovascular technologists. They perform EKGs, which trace electrical impulses transmitted by the heart through electrodes attached to the patient’s chest, legs, and arms. Most patients receive EKGs prior to surgery or as part of a routine physical examination.
- Vascular Technicians
Vascular technicians create images of blood vessels and collect data that helps physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow and circulation. Also called vascular technologists or vascular sonographers, vascular technicians use non-invasive procedures featuring specialized ultrasound instruments or blood pressure cuffs to record information.
Cardiovascular Technology Education
Those interested in cardiovascular technology have several educational options, but the most popular choice is the two-year associate degree program. However, the specific amount of education and training required depends upon the specialty. Those enrolled in two-year programs may complete first-year coursework in basic pharmacology, human anatomy and physiology, medical instrumentation, and applied sciences. The following year they may take courses focusing in specialized instruction in either invasive, non-invasive cardiovascular, or non-invasive vascular technology. Individuals can also complete bachelor’s degree programs in cardiovascular technology or even master’s degree programs in the healthcare industry if they wish to advance their career. Many of these programs, no matter what the length, include clinical internships that have a specific number of training hours along with didactic instruction.
Cardiovascular Technician Certification
Although certification for cardiovascular technicians is voluntary, certain states may require licensure. However, many employers may require or even prefer to hire those who have certification. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers several options, including the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT), the Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS), the Registered Cardiac Sonographer (CCT), and the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS). The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certification for the Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) and the Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS). In order to sit for the certification exam from either organization, individuals must graduate from either a two- or four-year accredited program and/or have clinical experience. Prerequisite requirements depend upon the type of credential as well as which organization administers the certification.
Cardiovascular Technologist Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2013 the mean annual salary for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $53,990, while the mean hourly salary was $25.95. The state with the highest annually mean salary was Alaska with $73,710, and its hourly mean salary was $35.44. The top-paying metropolitan area was the New York City area, with a mean annual salary of $57,870 and a mean hourly salary of $27.82. Those who obtain certification and possess additional experience and advance education may secure higher salaries than those who do not. Additionally, individuals who work as managers or directors in cardiovascular departments or are consultants, trainers, or salespeople in cardiovascular technology may receive higher salaries.
Employment Opportunities & Job Outlook
The BLS reported that from 2012 through 2022, employment for cardiovascular technologists is expected to increase by 30% from 2012 through 2022. This potential increase is due to the baby boom population aging and remaining active later in life as well as federal rules expanding healthcare coverage, both of which necessitate additional medical staff. As of May 2013, the BLS reported that there were 51,010 cardiovascular technologists and technicians employed across the country. Most technologists in this field find employment in general medical and surgical hospitals, followed by diagnostic laboratories, physicians’ offices, and outpatient healthcare facilities.