Cardiologists and the cardiovascular medical field is a vast area concerning all matters to do with the human heart. A cardiologist can work to help those at-risk for or recovering from heart attacks, perform emergency heart surgery, monitor heart conditions, and so much more. Because of the multitude of cardio issues that are possible, there are many specialties in the field that one can become a doctor or surgeon in. One of these specialties is a cardiovascular perfusionist, or a cardiologist perfusion MD.
What does a Cardiovascular Perfusionist Do?
Also sometimes known as a clinical perfusionist, this healthcare professional specializes in using heart and lung machines during cardiac and cardiopulmonary surgery. The position is very biomedical machine centric.
Perfusionists usually work with a cardiothoracic surgical team, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, and nurses. The perfusionist is the only person responsible for managing the patient’s physiological and metabolic needs while a cardiac surgeon is operating on an unbeating heart (for instance, in the case of implementing a pacemaker).
This professional commonly works with a heart-lung machine, reservoirs, tubing, oxygenators, and more. Their responsibility with these machines is to manage circulatory and respiratory status in a patient. It is imperative to the entire surgical team that a cardiovascular perfusionist is alert and consistently maintaining a patient’s homeostasis.
A Perfusionist can have other duties depending on their facility, including working with additional machines and transporting donated organs.
How to Become a Cardiovascular Perfusionist
The path to becoming a Perfusionist is not the easiest, and there is only an estimated 4,000 certified Perfusionists in the United States. To be admitted to a cardio perfusionist program, one must first receive a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in physiology, chemistry, anatomy, and biology.
From there, the professional would go on to achieve a master’s degree in perfusion sciences. This involves training for roughly two years in clinical and academic settings. The program includes many hours of observation, academic coursework, and eventually an increasing amount of supervised involvement in surgeries.
As with any medical certification or degree, a Perfusionist must pass an exam administered and evaluated by a board of professionals. Included with this is a varied number of clinical procedures with which the student is involved.
The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Cardiovascular Perfusionist
There are approximately 18 schools in the United States that provide perfusionist training, making the process of finding a school cumbersome. In contrast to this, a major pro is that there are very few Perfusionists in the US, making the job highly desirable.
Of course, the job can be extremely stressful. As heart surgeries can run well over eight hours with no break, which means a Perfusionist is maintaining the patient’s homeostasis for every minute of the surgery. This means long hours throughout the week because of the length of surgeries and shortage of Perfusionists.
A big pro is job security. If you are dedicated and work well in the operating room, you can easily make six figures a year and be desired by multiple medical facilities. It requires hard work, but the payoff is a huge benefit.
If you feel that you want to take your medical career in cardiology to a next level and have a passion for biomedical technology, then a cardiovascular technologist may be the perfect career for you.