Invasive Cardiovascular Technologists assist physicians in diagnosing and treating heart and blood vessel disorders. These professionals work in hospital cardiac catheterization labs, more commonly referred to as the heart cath lab, where they assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures. A small tube, or catheter, is threaded through a patient’s artery from a spot on the groin to the heart or adjoining arteries or veins. The procedure can determine whether a blockage exists in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle or help to diagnose other problems. Some of the procedures may involve balloon angioplasty, which can be used to treat blockages of blood vessels or heart valves without the need for heart surgery. Catheters are also used in electrophysiology tests, which help locate the specific areas of heart tissue that give rise to the abnormal electrical impulses that cause heart arrhythmias. During procedures, technologists monitor patient’s blood pressure and heart rate with EKG equipment.
- General hospitals
- Heart specialty hospitals
- Specialty clinics
Cardiovascular technologists spend a lot of time walking and standing. Heavy lifting may be involved to move equipment or transfer patients. Working in the heart cath lab can be stressful due to close contact with patients who have serious heart ailments. Some patients may encounter complications that have life-or-death implications. Technologists may generally be scheduled for a 5-day, 40-hour week, but the nature of the work can mean longer hours, including evening and weekend on-call duty.
Employment of cardiovascular technologists is expected to increase 24 percent through the year 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand will stem from the prevalence of heart disease and the aging population, because older people have a higher incidence of heart disease and other complications.
- Ability to work with a variety of people
- Ability to work with a team, as a team
- Critical thinking skills
- Good manual dexterity, space and form perception
- Ability to learn scientific as well as mechanical information
The majority of cardiovascular technologists complete a 2-year program resulting in an associate degree, although there are some 4-year programs outside Nebraska. The programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
The first year is dedicated to core courses and is followed by a year of specialized instruction. Typically, the student is placed in an externship at a hospital cath lab, where they work full-time under the supervision of trained professionals. According to Tom Appelget, Supervisor of a Cardiac Catheterization Lab, “It’s a lot of hands-on. That’s how you learn.” Appelget says students placed at his facility, work for the hospital as a non-employed employee for six months. “We take responsibility for making sure we give a good end-product…after they leave here, they’re as good as we are. That’s our goal.”
The Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals states that Invasive Cardiovascular Technologists require “high levels of understanding of cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, radiation, physics and safety, as well as radiological imaging and positioning.” Those who are already qualified in an allied health profession, typically radiologic technologists, need only complete a year of specialized instruction.
Licensing is not currently required. To become registered, a person must take the credentialing examination from Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
Programs in Nebraska
Related / Links
Invasive Cardiovascular Technologist is one of three careers that encompass the broader title of Cardiovascular Technologist. The other two career specialties both involve non-invasive procedures:
Other careers that involve operating sophisticated equipment to help physicians diagnose and treat patients include:
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Nuclear medicine technologist
- Radiation therapist
- Radiologic technologist
- Respiratory therapist
- Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology
- Society of Invasive Cardiovascular Professionals
- Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Cardiovascular Technologists, on the Internet at www.bls.gov