Updated: Jun 7, 2022
A cardiovascular technologist, sometimes referred to as a technician, acts as the eyes and ears of a doctor.
Cardiovascular technologists use high frequency sound waves, also known as ultrasound, to create diagnostic images of the heart, veins, and arteries. Ultrasound signals are sent into the body, reflected back, and processed to create a moving, 2-dimensional video clip of the anatomy. You can even see blood flowing through the heart, veins, and arteries with color flow Doppler!
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF A CARDIOVASCULAR ULTRASOUND?
A Cardiovascular Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that can make a life-saving diagnosis. Pathology like heart failure, leaky valves, and abnormal fluid around the heart can be diagnosed from echocardiography, also known as cardiac ultrasound.
On the other hand, a vascular ultrasound will focus on finding any blockages, or aneurysms, in the vessels of the body. In addition, the findings from cardiovascular ultrasounds are hyper specific and aid in decisions about medication dosage and surgical procedures.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGIST?
Cardiovascular technologists have a unique job description because they work one-on-one with patients, with the support of a physician. This is different when compared to other imaging modalities, like X-ray, because in that situation there is a team of healthcare professionals working together to obtain images.
WHERE DO CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGISTS WORK?
Due to the versatile nature of ultrasound, cardiovascular technologists can find themselves in a wide array of work environments. Cardiovascular ultrasounds are needed in doctor’s offices, inpatient hospital rooms, and even in surgery! For example, cardiovascular ultrasound is used to support surgeons during procedures, like a heart valve replacement, and often requires the assistance of a cardiovascular technologist. In addition, cardiac ultrasound can be used during stress testing, where a patient exercises, or is given medication to simulate exercise, and ultrasound images are obtained simultaneously by the cardiovascular technologist.
IS IT BETTER TO WORK AT A HOSPITAL OR DOCTOR'S OFFICE?
One of the many benefits of being a cardiovascular technologist is the option of a variety of career environments and job duties. For those who like a fast-paced environment, a hospital setting might be a more attractive work environment. On the other hand, those who favor routine might prefer the predictable nature of an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office.
WHAT TYPE OF EDUCATION IS REQUIRED TO BECOME A CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGIST?
Education for a cardiovascular technologist can range from a certificate to a master’s degree; however, most cardiovascular technologists come from a certificate program or an associate’s degree program.
WHAT IS A CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGIST PROGRAM LIKE?
Cardiovascular technology programs include general education, like algebra, anatomy and physiology, and computer science, as well as specialized core classes, like echocardiography, vascular ultrasound, and ultrasound physics.
On top of didactic preparation, students of cardiovascular technology programs are required to perform a certain number of externship hours. This number varies from program to program; however, the goals of externship are the same, to expose students to hands on training with actual patients.
IS THERE A STATE LICENSE TEST I HAVE TO TAKE AFTER?
No. However, once a student has completed their didactic and externship requirements, they are eligible to take a credentialing exam. Although not all places of work require credentials to work as a cardiovascular technologist, the majority of patient care centers require credentials because they mark an appropriately trained technologist. In addition, insurance often requires ultrasound exams be performed by a credentialed technologist for reimbursement purposes.
DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL SKILLS TO BECOME A CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGIST?
Cardiovascular technologists must be able to think critically and analytically in order to obtain enough diagnostic data for the doctor who reads the ultrasound. An ideal cardiovascular technologist is also an independent thinker and self-motivated, as they are typically alone when performing exams. Most importantly, cardiovascular technologists are capable of experiencing empathy in order to provide excellent patient care. An outstanding cardiovascular technologist should treat their patients with dignity and compassion.
ARE CARDIOVASCULAR TECHNOLOGISTS IN DEMAND?
With heart disease as the leading cause of death in our country, and ultrasound as a primary tool to assess for heart disease, the importance of cardiovascular technologists in the workplace is undeniable. It is also a very rewarding career as it is a perfect balance of challenging oneself intellectually while simultaneously experiencing a feeling of fulfillment and purpose that comes from patient care.
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