A cardiovascular technologist works under a doctor’s direction providing assistance in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and vascular, or blood vessel, problems. A career in this field requires development of interpersonal skills for interacting appropriately with people who have life-threatening illnesses, and the ability to work with a wide range of tools and equipment. A successful candidate is professional, patient, understanding, and works well with people of all cultures.
A cardiovascular technologist performs a variety of administrative and service-related tasks. He or she explains tests and procedures to patients, monitors a patient's safety and comfort for the duration of the testing, and reports any abnormalities or problems to the attending physician. Other duties may include obtaining patient records and test results, maintaining cardiology equipment, monitoring heart rate and blood pressure, and recording diagnostic data using cardiology equipment.
There are four areas of specialization for a cardiovascular technologist. Cardiology technologists perform invasive procedures such as implanting cardiac catheters and inserting pacemakers. Echocardiography technologists work with cardiac graphic imaging equipment like the ultrasound machine. Vascular technologists assess blood flow irregularities and perform other, non-invasive vascular procedures. Electrocardiography technologists, or EKG technicians, collect diagnostic data for heart conditions by recording electromotive fluctuations in the heart with an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine.
Typically, careers for a cardiovascular technologist do not offer entry-level positions. Most cardiovascular technologists must complete a two- to four-year education program to receive an associate’s degree. Core curriculum courses offer cardiovascular technology, general and applied sciences, pharmacology, human physiology and anatomy, and medical instrumentation and electronics. After the core curriculum, attention is shifted to specialty areas like invasive cardiology, noninvasive cardiology, and noninvasive vascular studies, depending upon the student's chosen field.
Most states require certification before a cardiovascular technologist may begin to practice. This certification is obtained through Cardiovascular Credentialing International and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Although there are some states that do not require this certification, many employers base their hiring on whether or not the cardiovascular technologist applicant has been certified through one of these organizations.
Employment opportunities in the cardiovascular technology field appear to be growing. Despite this growth, fewer EKG technicians are expected to be employed over the next few years because more hospitals are cross-training nurses and other health professionals to perform the same basic tasks. EKG technicians who have received special training in continuous heart monitoring, also called Holter monitoring, may have better prospects in health care careers than those who only perform basic EKGs.