Become a Cardiovascular Technician: Training Required

Cardiovascular technician training is intensive by any standards. It starts with either a 2 year community college, or more commonly, a 4 year course doing an accredited program.

The initial training involves two basic streams: Invasive and non invasive cardiology:

Invasive (involving actual penetration of tissues) cardiology includes:

  • Cardiac catheter implants threaded through a selected entry point to the heart. The catheter is a hollow tube designed to drain fluids

  • Balloon angioplasty is used to relieve blood vessel or heart valve blockages without the use of open heart surgery.

  • Electro cardiogram (EKG) equipment is used to monitor these procedures.

Non-invasive (does not require tissue penetration) cardiology includes:

Ultrasound scanning of areas of the body: Information obtained includes vascular flow, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, abdominal, peripheral and cerebral circulation. This information is particularly important at preoperative and postoperative stages of a medical procedure.

Echocardiography (EKG procedures): This is "mapping" the electrical impulses of the heart. EKG uses electrode technology and a portable monitor on a belt to measure and record impulses from the patient. These recordings are carried out over a 24 hour period of normal activity by the patient. The recorded measurements are then assessed to form a picture of the patient's heart condition. Training in this field is conducted under the supervision of an EKG supervisor or technician. 

Some of these procedures may involve "stress" testing like treadmill exercises conducted by the patient. Both types of procedure may be used to obtain a thorough knowledge of the patient's health and the state of the heart condition over a representative period of time.

Specialists in the various forms of cardiovascular technology are referred to as:

  • Sonographers: Technicians working with ultrasound technology.

  • Electrocardiological technicians: Those working with EKG technology.

  • Cardiology technologists: Those operating the invasive cardiology equipment.

Accreditation of courses is provided by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals (CAAHEP).

Licensing and Certification

Some US states require licensing of operators of cardiovascular technicians. It's advisable to check with state medical boards regarding exact licensing requirements.

Certification is a definite positive in professional terms, providing industry standard certification for employment purposes.

Two US organizations provide professional certification:

Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) provides the following certifications in each field:

  • Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT)
  • Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS)
  • Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS) 
  • Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS)

The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) provides sonography specialist certifications:

  • Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)
  • Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)

Becoming a cardiovascular technician

Some areas of cardiovascular technology are very demanding work, including periods of standing, and lifting equipment. Cardiovascular technicians are in regular contact with patients, who may be in distress as a result of their conditions. Cardiovascular technicians require several skills to do this work effectively:

"People skills": Working with sick people requires patience and good personal skills.

Analytical skills: This is a very technically demanding job, requiring aptitude for both operating the technology and interpreting data.

Communications skills: Explaining complex procedures to patients and issues to physicians requires articulate, clear speech and clarity of expression.

Ability to work well under pressure: Cardiovascular technicians may have high work loads, and may also be required to work long hours.