Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Cardiovascular technicians and technologists work with doctors assisting patients with cardiovascular problems. There are three specialties a technologist can be trained in: vascular technology, echocardiography, and invasive cardiology. Technicians with expertise in electrocardiograms (EKGs), Holter monitors, or stress diagnostic testing can also be called EKG or cardiographic technicians.

Technologists with training in invasive treatments are known as cardiology technologists. They help doctors insert a small tube, also known as a catheter, through an artery near a person's groin that runs to the heart. This is done to discover whether the person has a blocked blood vessel which feeds to the heart. If the doctor determines surgery is not necessary, this procedure can be used to perform a balloon angioplasty, a procedure intended to remove blockages. During this procedure, cardiology technologists help physicians insert the tube into the patient's body.

Technologists are involved with patient preparation during the aforementioned procedures by preparing the area around the groin where the tube is inserted. While physicians are performing these procedures, technicians keep an eye on a patient's heart rate and blood pressure to watch for any abnormalities. They also monitor the same vital signs throughout an open heart surgery procedure or a stent or pacemaker procedure. Stents and pacemakers are devices that remove artery blockages.

Cardiovascular technologists are also trained to operate equipment designed to perform noninvasive tests, tests that do not involve inserting tubes in a person's body, such as Doppler ultrasounds or echocardiography technology. If they are using ultrasounds to diagnose patients, technology utilizing high frequency waves to capture an internal image, they can view the images on a screen which will later be reviewed by a doctor. Technicians must be adequately trained in using the technology, so they can be sure they conducted the test properly before submitting it to a doctor. Technologists are also responsible to keep test records, explain diagnostic procedures, and instruct patient's to alter their physical positions while situated on diagnostic technology.

Cardiovascular technologists specializing in circulation problems are called vascular technologists or sonographers. These specialists speak with patients to determine medical histories and analyze blood by listening for flow problems. After these tests, they use ultrasound technology to determine such important vascular functions as blood flow and oxygen saturation. These diagnostic procedures and tests are conducted prior to and after a surgical procedure.

Technologists trained to run equipment to examine heart values, chambers, and vessels are called echocardiographers. These professionals operate ultrasound technology to generate pictures referred to as echocardiograms. Technologists are also responsible to provide medication to patients whom frequently exercise to accurately determine a person's heart activity. Echocardiographers help doctors during a procedure known as a transesophageal echocardiography, an ultrasound diagnostic procedure where a tube is inserted into an esophagus to generate images.

Cardiovascular technicians trained to acquire EKGs are called electrocardiograph technicians. EKGs are electrical impulses created by the heart. To acquire an accurate EKG reading, technicians connect electrodes to selected areas on a patient's body. Then, the results are printed to be reviewed by a doctor. This is a common procedure for people preparing for a surgical procedure or those at an age where heart problems frequently occur.

Electrocardiograph technicians with special expertise and training conduct Holter monitor tests. To perform a Holter monitoring test, technicians attach electrodes on various sections on a person's body for an entire day. When the patient returns to a medical clinic to remove the electrodes, the Holter monitor is inserted into a scanner. As with an EKG test, the results are printed to be examined by a doctor. With this information, doctors can assess heart rhythm problems.

Before a treadmill stress evaluation, technicians discuss the procedure with patients, record a patient's blood pressure, and prepare them for the test. During the test, they keep track of how a person's heart is functioning while they increase the intensity of the treadmill. Treadmill stress tests are considered noninvasive procedures.

Certain cardiovascular technicians and technologists have administrative responsibilities which include appointment scheduling, keeping and filing medical records, and recording doctor analyses.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 25 percent job growth for cardiovascular technologists and technicians until 2018, a higher growth rate than average projected growth in other industries. Growth will be spurred by rising cardiovascular disease rates and elderly populations.

Education Requirements

The military, various hospitals, vocational schools, and colleges and universities offer cardiovascular technologist and technician training programs. Depending on concentration, most students complete training in 1-4 years. Most training programs only accept students with high school degrees or GEDs.

Cardiovascular technologist and technician training programs provide classroom and clinical training in the following areas:

  • Cardiovascular technology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Invasive and non-invasive procedures
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Echocardiology

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