Cardiovascular technologists and technicians ensure that a patient’s most important organ — the heart — is functioning correctly. They operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests to diagnose heart and blood vessel problems.
Technicians manage electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs), which show heart rhythms, and assist physicians in diagnosing heart problems. 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.
There are many other specialities. 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.
- 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
A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Cardiovascular technicians typically earn an associate degree or postsecondary certificate.
Students earn certification by graduating from an accredited program offered through a community college, technical school or four-year college. Candidates also may qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience.
Certification courses last anywhere from four to six weeks for basic EKG training to 18 to 24 months for more advanced skills. 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.
Most technicians have at least one professional certification in their speciality, but many earn multiple certifications. Professional certification is often required to get a license, but not all states require a license.
Many employers require technicians to be trained in CPR.
- Are detail-oriented and can follow precise directions
- Have good communication and interpersonal skills
- Have excellent hand-eye coordination
- Have strong technical skills to operate complex machinery
- Have the physical stamina to work on your feet for long stretches and the physical strength to lift or position patients