The cardiovascular technologist (CVT) works in a hospital as a member of a team of medical professionals. They work with patients suspected of having cardiovascular disease. The CVT works to diagnose and treat these various cardiovascular pathologies. They work in a cath. lab with cardiologists. The cath. lab is a specialized X-ray angiography suite where a patient undergoes cardiac diagnostic and interventional procedures. Coronary angiography is a diagnostic procedure where small tubes called catheters are inserted into the blood vessels and advanced to the heart. Contrast is injected through these catheters to illuminate the blood vessels. X-ray motion pictures are taken to create a road map as the contrast flows through the vessels. If there are obstructions they will be visualized. Pressures in the various chambers are also measured. This provides the physician a working diagnosis. The patient is consulted and a treatment plan is formulated. This plan may mean another visit to the lab to treat the disease. This would be called an interventional procedure. The most common type of interventional procedures are designed to open obstructed blood vessels. To treat electrical problems we may implant pacemakers or defibrillators. These procedures require a team of three technologists with the physician. The credentials of the team may vary by region however the roles are consistent in the cath. lab. These are:
Surgically scrubs in, preps and drapes the patient, then assists the physician with equipment. Equipment includes needles, wires, catheters, and medications.
Moves about the lab during the procedure providing equipment to the scrub tech. as needed. Also attends to the needs of the patient as well as managing the IV drugs.
Watches over the vital signs during the procedure. Documents the procedure and creates a medical record. Records the intra cardiac pressures. Is responsible for interdepartmental communications.
There are many other procedures and sub procedures the CVT will be involved with. The roles are similar but the equipment and patients are variable.
Required skills and abilities
- Fluent in medical terminology
- Demonstrates the principals of surgical asepsis
- Attends to details
- Understands cardiovascular pathophysiology
- Read a 12 lead EKG
- Identifies lethal arrhythmias 100% of the time
- Identify normal versus abnormal intra cardiac and peripheral pressure waveforms
- Work as a member of a team
- Practice a code of medical ethics
- Fluent in English
- Must have good bilateral finger dexterity, good hearing and vision in low light conditions
Level of training
- Is a graduate of an accredited program having earned an AAS in invasive cardiovascular technology. Definitions of an accredited program are established by CAHAAP and the AMA.
- Has passed the RCIS exam administered by CCI.
Opportunities for advancement
Cardiovascular technologists can advance to supervisory or management positions within the health care provider organization. Another opportunity is to leave the direct patient care arena and enter the "industry". This means working for a medical manufacturer. These positions might be in sales or clinical applications. With additional training the CVT can become a perfusionist. The perfusionist runs the "Heart-Lung machine' to maintain the patient during cardiac surgery. This requires two more years, but is not offered at SCC. Some CVT's have their own business where they hire themselves out per case. There are other opportunities for creative individuals.
As the nature of cardiology is often emergent, living within 30 minutes of your employer is often a requirement. This allows you to respond in a timely manner when you are "on call".
Must be able to lift and move 50 pounds.
RCIS, which is accepted nationally, is recommended though not required by all institutions.