Cardiovascular technologists monitor patients’ heart rates and perform and assist in the diagnosis and treatment of problems having to do with the patient’s heart.
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require professional certification.
Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular and vascular technology. Common fields of degree include healthcare and related subjects, biology, and science technologies. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
Employers typically prefer graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular education programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Most sonography programs are divided into the specialized fields listed earlier that correspond to the relevant certification exams, such as abdominal sonography or breast sonography. Cardiovascular and vascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures. In addition to requiring classroom study, most programs include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.
High school students who are interested in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiovascular technology, or vascular technology should take courses in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Diagnostic imaging workers can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program, although candidates also may qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience. All candidates must pass an exam. Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging; for example, a sonographer can earn a certification in abdominal sonography. Most diagnostic imaging workers have at least one certification, but many earn multiple certifications.
In addition, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a basic life support (BLS) certification, which affirms that they are trained to provide CPR.
Few states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. Typically, professional certification is required for licensure; other requirements vary by state. Contact state medical boards for more information.
Detail oriented. Diagnostic imaging workers must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients. They must also pay attention to the screen while scanning a patient’s body, because the cues that contrast healthy areas with unhealthy ones may be subtle.
Hand–eye coordination. To get quality images, diagnostic imaging workers must accurately move equipment on the patient’s body in response to what they see on the screen.
Interpersonal skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must work closely with patients. Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and these workers must get cooperation from the patients in order to create usable images. Diagnostic imaging workers must also communicate clearly when discussing images with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.
Physical stamina. Diagnostic imaging workers are on their feet for long periods and must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.
Technical skills. Diagnostic imaging workers must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.