What Does a Cardiovascular Technician Do?
Cardiovascular technicians ensure that a patient’s most important organ — the heart — is functioning correctly. They operate special imaging equipment to create images and conduct tests to diagnose and treat heart disease and blood vessel problems.
Technicians manage electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs), which show heart rhythms, and assist physicians in diagnosing heart issues. They work closely with doctors and surgeons before, during and after a procedure. Technicians first apply the electrodes that register electronic signals and then they run the EKG monitoring equipment. They also take cardiovascular ultrasounds that provide 2D or 3D images of the heart and its chambers.
Cardiovascular techs may also administer stress tests to check heart functioning during exercise, or apply Holter monitors, which monitor heart rate for several hours or for several days.
Technicians go by many names, including cardiac tech, electrocardiology technician and sometimes cardiovascular technologist or cardiology technologist. However, there’s a difference in education for technologists that we’ll cover in more detail below.
Are you interested in learning more about the technicians that create such important images? Read on to learn more about what’s required to do this job, including training, education and the personal traits that successful technicians share.
- Prepare patients for electrocardiogram (EKG) tests, stress tests and other heart tests
- Explain test procedure
- Monitor patients' blood pressure and heart rate during EKG
- Operate diagnostic machine and run other tests
- Review images and identify any abnormalities
- Analyze findings and discuss with physician
- Review and record all patient information
- Prepare and maintain diagnostic medical equipment
How To Become a Cardiovascular Technician: FAQs
What are the educational and training requirements?
There are many paths to this career. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for all of them. Students can earn a certificate, diploma, associate degree or even a bachelor's degree. Look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) at a community college, technical school or four-year college.
Most programs include courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, applied sciences, human anatomy and medical terminology.
It’s also possible to qualify for cardiovascular technician jobs through a combination of education and experience.
In most programs, students do coursework and earn credit while working in a clinical setting under the direction of a more experienced technologist. All candidates must pass an exam given by the American Association of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Most technicians have at least one professional certification, but many earn multiple certifications. Medical Technology Schools (MTS) maintains a list of certifications for cardiovascular technology offered by the two most common providers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS).
There are many areas of specialization in this field. For example, cardiovascular invasive specialists, also known as cardiac catheterization technologists, monitor heart rates. They prepare and monitor patients during open-heart surgery or the insertion of a pacemaker or stent. Pulmonary function technologists, also known as cardiopulmonary technologists, monitor and test patients’ lungs and breathing. Invasive cardiovascular technologists operate X-ray and ICVT imaging equipment as the cardiologist performs a procedure.
Continuing education is a must in cardiovascular technology, but credits can be earned through courses (online or in person), hands-on training or conferences.
Are there any other qualifications to consider?
Most employers require a background check and a drug test. Most technicians are also trained in CPR.
Most states require a license to practice, and professional certification may be a license requirement. The rules vary by state.
How long does it take to become a technician?
Certification courses last anywhere from four to six weeks for basic EKG training to 18 to 24 months for more advanced skills. An associate degree takes two years and a bachelor’s degree takes four.
Cardiovascular technician vs. technologist: What's the difference?
Technicians and technologists focus on heart (cardiac) and blood vessel (peripheral vascular) issues. They are both skilled in running the diagnostic equipment, but technologists also participate in more complex surgeries and procedures such as open-heart surgery or cardiac catherization.
Is there a demand for this job?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 8% growth in employment from 2020 to 2030, which is on par with the average for all jobs. As with other medical professions, cardiovascular technicians will be in demand as the population ages and requires more diagnostic scans.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
The traits that most successful cardiovascular technologists and technicians share include:
- Detail-oriented and good at following precise directions
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Excellent hand-eye coordination
- Good technical skills to operate complex machinery
- Physical stamina (working on their feet for long stretches of time) and physical strength (to lift or position patients)
- Able to see all colors in the spectrum