What are Cardiovascular Techs?
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians help doctors examine and monitor various aspects of a patient's heart, looking for any changes or abnormalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some perform noninvasive tests, such as echocardiograms or electrocardiograms, while others help physicians insert catheters through a patient's artery and into the heart, a procedure known as cardiac catheterization. In procedures like these, cardiovascular techs also help prep patients by cleaning and applying a topical anesthesia to an area (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). For more information, see our cardiovascular tech careers page.
Cardiovascular Technology Program Information
A range of institutions, including trade schools, community colleges, universities and hospitals, offer cardiovascular technology programs. Many programs are campus based, but some may combine online coursework with hands-on clinical training. While not mandatory, individuals may want to choose cardiovascular technology schools that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHP).
Cardiovascular technology programs often focus on giving students a keen understanding of human anatomy and physiology, invasive and non-invasive cardiology, and critical care procedures. Students can generally expect cardiovascular technology programs to include both lecture-based classes, labs, and clinical practice. An internship or externship is often part of the clinical requirements.
Cardiovascular Technology Program Types
Cardiovascular technology programs are most commonly found at the following levels:
- Certificate/Diploma: Students may be able to complete a certificate or diploma program in as little as one year. In these programs, students gain practical experience in cardiovascular monitoring and care, such as performing an EKG test and understanding how a Holter monitor works. Students may also be introduced to invasive cardiovascular treatments. These programs may be beneficial to those who already have experience working in a healthcare setting, or have a degree in a related field.
- Associate Degree: The associate degree is considered the most common path to employment as a cardiovascular technologist, according to the BLS. Coursework can usually be completed in about two years. Students may learn much of the same information as in a certificate or diploma program, but the additional credit requirements may give them a more well-rounded education. This program might be beneficial to those looking to complete a bachelor's degree in the future.
- Bachelor's Degree: While not as prevalent as certificate, diploma, or associate's degree programs, there are universities that offer bachelor's degrees in cardiovascular technology. This may be a good option for individuals seeking a more comprehensive college education or students who wish to pursue a master's.
Upon completion of a program at cardiovascular technology schools, students may be prepared to seek out certification. While generally not required by law, the BLS does note that employers prefer certified applicants. In fact, the BLS reports that some insurance providers will only reimburse for related services when they were completed by a cardiovascular technician or technologist who is certified. Examples of certifications include Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) and Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS), which are offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
Cardiovascular Technology Course Descriptions
Cardiovascular technology programs can vary in scope and in depth, but core courses tend to be similar from program to program. Students may find that some or all of the following cardiovascular technology courses are part of their academic instruction.
- Anatomy and Physiology: Students are introduced to the various tissues, structures and systems that are part of the body and complete lab exercises that can help solidify classroom instruction. This subject may be divided into two courses depending on the program.
- Invasive Cardiology: A detailed examination of cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology is provided. Students may learn how to perform treatments such as cardiac catheterization at various stages of human development.
- Non-Invasive Cardiology: Students learn about various non-invasive procedures and testing such as cardiac stress testing, Holter monitoring and echocardiography.
- Critical Care Applications: This course introduces students to the steps that are crucial in times of emergency care, and helps them to understand the use of essential equipment, including chest tubes.
Cardiovascular Technology Specialties
Cardiovascular technology programs are often split into either invasive or non-invasive concentrations, though programs that teach both are available as well. Some cardiovascular technology schools specialize even further, offering programs in subjects such as:
- Echocardiography (also known as Cardiac Sonography)
- Peripheral Vascular Technology
Related Career Options
Training in cardiovascular technology may enable students to pursue related allied health professions. Choosing another career path often requires additional education, training and/or certification. Examples of similar occupations include:
- Nuclear Medical Technologists: Use radiopharmaceuticals and scanning equipment to highlight abnormal findings, such as tumors, in a patient's body.
- Radiologic Technologists: Carry out diagnostic exams, such as X-rays or CT scans, on patients. Shield areas of a patient's body not being examined to protect against unnecessary radiation.
- Respiratory Therapists: Help treat patients suffering from respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or a chronic respiratory disease. May perform related diagnostic testing such as examining lung capacity.
Links to Sources and Associations
Visit the following websites to learn more about cardiovascular technology: