If your heart beats for high-tech health care, consider becoming an invasive cardiovascular technologist. Cardiovascular techs help doctors diagnose and treat cardiac problems. By specializing in the invasive field, you will participate in procedures where medical devices enter a patient's body, from minimally invasive diagnostic tests to highly invasive operations like open-heart surgery. In contrast, other cardiovascular techs focus primarily on non-invasive methods, such as diagnostic procedures where equipment is placed on a patient's body.
Invasive Cardiovascular Procedures
As an invasive cardiovascular tech, you might work together with invasive and interventional cardiologists. The most common invasive cardiovascular procedure is cardiac catheterization, where a small plastic tube called a catheter is placed in a patient's coronary artery. Health practitioners use X-rays or ultrasound to see the catheter's journey. Cardiac catheterization can be used both to diagnose problems and to treat them. For example, a doctor may find a blockage in the blood vessels and treat this blockage by inserting a stent or balloon catheter. Cardiac catheterization typically takes place in a cath lab — a specialized department in a hospital or clinic.
You may also help to insert pacemakers and perform intra-cardiac electrophysiology studies (EPS), where electrodes are placed on the heart to measure its electrical activity. This test can be used to diagnose abnormal heart beats or heart rhythms. If a problem is found during this exam, you may help the cardiologist to destroy the areas of the heart that are causing the problem or place a pacemaker into the body.
In addition to participating in these invasive procedures, you may also take care of more administrative tasks, such as recording patient history, obtaining medical data and preparing a patient for surgery.
Job Outlook for Cardiovascular Techs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cardiovascular techs earn a national average of $53,050 annually. As an invasive cardiovascular technologist you may have traditional 40-hour work weeks, but there is a higher likelihood that you will work overtime, weekends, nights, and on-call shifts compared to other types of cardiological technicians. This is because it's more likely that you will be employed in a hospital and be needed for emergencies.
To prepare yourself to work in this highly specialized field, you should enroll in one of the nation's cardiovascular technologist schools — ideally one that offers students a combination of classroom study and hands-on training.