Following a year with unprecedented clinical demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of career roles in health care are experiencing immense growth and present a strong career outlook moving forward. Health care career professionals in these positions play an important role in the care of patients across the country, who rely on them…
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How to Become a Cardiovascular Technologist
Alternative Career Titles:
Cardiovascular Technologist Job Description: Cardiovascular Technologists conduct tests on cardiovascular systems for diagnostic and intervention purposes.
Cardiovascular Technologist Salary (Annual): $57,720
Cardiovascular Technologist Salary Range: $29,710 to $94,370
How Long To Become a Cardiovascular Technologist: 2 years
Cardiovascular Technologist Requirements: Associate’s Degree in Cardiovascular Technology
Become a Cardiovascular Technologist
A Cardiovascular Technologist is on the forefront of treating diseases and conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. This is an incredibly important career in healthcare because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Cardiovascular Technologists play their part in combating heart disease by conducting tests to diagnose and treat heart conditions. Typically, a Cardiovascular Technologist will support an Interventional Cardiologist or Surgeon when supporting invasive procedures. There are a number of sub-specialties in the field; they include adult and pediatric electrocardiography, cardiac electro-physiology, invasive cardiology and non-invasive cardiovascular studies. They may also schedule patient appointments, monitor patient heart rates and review Family Physician notes as well as patient files. Another important element of this role is explaining procedures and possible outcomes to patients prior to them being administered and responding to questions post-procedure.
“I would say a career as a Cardiovascular Technologist is among the most rewarding careers in healthcare,” Arron Whittington, a Cardiovascular Technologist practicing in Virginia, said. “This is a very fast-paced, and constantly evolving career. Therefore, there are many different ways for us to treat advanced cardiac diseases and structural abnormalities.”
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Education & Training
To become a Cardiovascular Technologist, professionals must earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in cardiovascular technology. During these programs, learners can expect to receive instruction in biology, physiology, mathematics, physics, chemistry and more. After a degree is obtained, many employers require Cardiovascular Technologists to obtain professional certification through the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (invasive, noninvasive, echocardiography, EP, peripheral vascular) or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (echo cardiography). After securing a position, on-site training is normally required by employers as well.
“The program I went through was a program offered through the United States Navy, and the requirements were some college algebra, chemistry and biology,” Whittington explained. “If you apply yourself to your program, meaning that you study when you need to study and adequately prepare for all examinations, you will do fine.”
Whittington further explained that his program lasted 15 months and was a more condensed course than the typical cardiovascular technology programs offered at civilian colleges. During this time, his greatest challenge was grasping the concept of conceptual learning.
“In the cardiology and electrophysiology fields, a lot of concepts are interrelated, so not understanding one concept can make learning others more difficult,” Whittington noted. “My Navy program made us learn both modalities of the field to include cardiac sonography and the invasive side of cardiac cath and electrophysiology.”
An Associate’s Degree is all that is needed to become a Cardiovascular Technologist. However, when trying to progress in this career in healthcare many of these professionals choose to advance their level of training or pursue their Bachelor’s Degree. These professionals can also progress through supervisory management positions, or consider educational or laboratory settings.
“To advance as a Cardiovascular Technologist, staying on top of the new modalities and technology that are constantly evolving is imperative,” Whittington stressed. “Escaping your comfort zone and gaining new certifications within the field are also important.”
Experience & Skills
Effective Cardiovascular Technologists should possess dexterity, allowing them to manipulate complex equipment and machines with precision.. They should also be able to follow detailed instructions, and must be extremely knowledgeable about the cardiopulmonary system as a whole. Furthermore, Cardiovascular Technologists must remain organized and keep strong time management skills to ensure they can assist all scheduled patients while tending to emergency scenarios during a given shift. This remains true for all careers in allied health.
“The skills I would say are the most important in this field involve being coach-able and flexible,” Whittington stated. “Cardiovascular Technologists should be able to listen, take instruction and act. They should also be able to accomplish a singular task in a number of different ways when needed.”
Ideally, a Cardiovascular Technologist should be outcome-oriented with strong communication skills, allowing them to both relay messages to other members of a healthcare team and directly to their patients. Additionally, these professionals need to be meticulous and observant, ensuring that all tests are conducted appropriately and with precision. Providing accurate data to Physicians and Surgeons is critical to help them make appropriate diagnoses and determine the most effective treatment plans.
Lastly, because these professionals may be faced with medical emergencies, they should be able to remain calm and composed in stressful situations. The ability to remain calm ensures that the technician provides excellent care and in addition, reduces a patient’s anxiety.
“Cardiovascular Technologists should ideally have an alpha-type personality,” Whittington expressed. “They should also have a confident personality when in this role. In the Navy we call this mentality having a ‘command presence,’ meaning that the professional is able to walk into a procedure and stay confident to accomplish the task at hand.”
The majority of Cardiovascular Technologists work full-time during regularly scheduled hours in an office-style environment. During a typical day at work, these professionals engage in phone conversations, use email, work as part of a healthcare team, meet deadlines, and communicate with patients or other staff members to make the best decisions. Their main responsibilities are to explain testing procedures, conduct tests, monitor blood pressures / heart rates, and communicate results to a Physician. Rarely are two days exactly the same as each new shift brings new patients with unique needs.
“The lifestyle of a Cardiovascular Technologist is busy, beginning at 6 am or 7am depending on the facility a professional works in,” Whittington emphasized. “You may have upwards of 18 outpatient cases a day, and after the outpatients you may have inpatients with non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), or patients who have not endured a heart attack. You just never know what may happen each day”.
Whittington continued that routine pre-scheduled testing may be disrupted when another patient has an unexpected heart attack or cardiac event. This patient will now take priority and the Cardiovascular Technologist must care for them right away. Although routine tests are scheduled during normal working hours, Technologists are required to be on call evenings, nights and weekends. The number of on call days per month will vary from institution to institution.
Over the next decade, this occupation is projected to grow 19 percent. This growth can largely be attributed to an aging baby boomer population who are in their later stages of life. As people are living longer, their risk of cardiovascular events increases. Public awareness about treatment options for cardiovascular disease has increased the demand for medical interventions. Learn about other careers in imaging and diagnostics.
Most Cardiovascular Technologists are employed by general medical and surgical hospitals. However, other professionals in this career in healthcare find employment through the offices of Physicians, medical and diagnostic laboratories, specialty hospitals and outpatient care centers. The state with the highest level of employment in this career is Texas, followed by Florida, California, New York and Pennsylvania.
“I would suggest that learners find a local program in their area and inquire about the requirements,” Whittington advised. “A lot of major heart hospitals and medical centers are affiliated with local colleges that offer these programs.”
The median annual wage for Cardiovascular Technologists is $57,720. While the top 10 percent were recorded to have earned more than $94,370 annually, the bottom 10 percent made less than $29,710. The top paying facilities in this field are the offices of health practitioners, outpatient care centers, post-secondary educational services, the offices of Physicians and employment services. The highest paying state for this occupation is the District of Columbia, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Connecticut.
“The more experience a Cardiovascular Technologist has when they enter the field, the more money they will ultimately make,” Whittington confirmed. “Geographic location also makes a huge difference in salary, but starting out professionals can expect to make around $25 to $40 an hour. Being on-call a lot can increase earning potential as being paged usually means getting paid time and a half.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals (ACVP) is a membership organization which offers members resources for cardiology and ample opportunities for professional development. The organization currently connects over 3,000 cardiovascular service professionals at all levels, and is designed to meet the needs of all providers, promulgate standards and promote the recognition of the cardiovascular profession.
The Society of Invasive Cardiovascular Professionals (SICP) is an organization designed to support the ongoing training of cardiovascular technologists and provide an educational framework for invasive cardiovascular training programs. Ultimately, this organization seeks to unite professionals within this industry and improve the benefits which participating members receive.
- Find a local program
- Apply to these programs and gain acceptance
- Once enrolled, study and apply yourself
- Consider working or volunteering at a hospital for outpatient center
- Complete the cardiovascular technology program
- Apply to available positions
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Arron Whittington
Practice: Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center
Location: Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Always try to learn new ways to do things from more senior professionals who have been in the field. Take their ways and mold them into your own so you can be efficient and fast when the time comes.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Some professionals don’t really understand how fast-paced the healthcare industry really is. As a result, sometimes they misunderstand the meaning of ‘always anticipate what’s coming next.’”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“What should I know about radiation safety?”
Why did you choose to become a Cardiovascular Technologist?
“I chose to become a Cardiovascular Technologist because I wanted to constantly and consistently challenge myself. I wanted to be able to see people at their absolute worst and, through this skill set, give them more time with their families.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
*Credentialing organizations: The Cardiovascular Credentialing International