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How to Become a Cardiopulmonary Assistant

Research the requirements to become a cardiopulmonary assistant. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a cardiopulmonary assistant. View article »

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Video Transcript

What's a Cardiopulmonary Assistant?

Cardiopulmonary assistants are medical professionals who are usually referred to as respiratory technicians, cardiovascular technicians, or cardiovascular technologists. They work under the direction of a licensed therapist or physician, helping with office duties and assisting with patient procedures.

As part of a healthcare team, these techs might perform a variety of invasive and non-invasive diagnostic procedures concerning the lungs, heart, or vascular system. Many work hours may be spent standing, and these professionals might sometimes need to lift or move patients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate degree
Degree Field Respiratory technology
Experience Entry-level hospital work experience or experience gained through internship; on-the-job training
Licensure and Certification Voluntary; may be preferred by some employers
Key Skills Good communication skills; attention to detail; critical thinking skills; familiarity with medical equipment, such as ventilators, pacemakers, ultrasound, and similar devices
Salary (2015) $68,970 per year (Median salary for diagnostic medical sonographers, including cardiopulmonary assistants)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Steps to Cardiopulmonary Assistant

Getting a job as a cardiopulmonary assistant requires a combination of education and experience.

Step 1: Get a College Education

An undergraduate certificate may be sufficient for some entry-level positions, but employers generally prefer that cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular assistants have an associate's degree. Cardiovascular technology associate degree programs include courses such as electrocardiography, invasive cardiovascular therapy principles, and cardiac ultrasound practice.

A degree program in respiratory therapy provides training in cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, mechanical ventilation, equipment management, and patient assessment. Most degree programs require practical experience through a clinical internship.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

After an individual completes a degree or certificate program, graduates may find opportunities to learn under several types of medical professionals through entry-level employment at a hospital or other clinical setting. Many postsecondary programs offer general medical assistant studies, allowing those interested in cardiopulmonary professions to aid respiratory therapists, physical therapists, or emergency care physicians. On-the-job training may play a large role in a professional's development, although additional formal training, licensure, or certification may be necessary for specific careers.

Step 3: Advance Your Career by Obtaining Certification

While optional, professional certification will demonstrate a respiratory assistant's proficiency in cardiopulmonary testing, treatment, and equipment. Several certifications are available, including the Certified Respiratory Technician designation, the Certified Cardiographic Technician, and Registered Cardiac Physiology Specialist.

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians can earn voluntary credentialing through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). These certifications have certain educational and/or experience prerequisites and require the applicant to pass an exam.

Cardiopulmonary assistants generally hold an associate's degree in cardiovascular technology or respiratory therapy to prepare for jobs assisting licensed therapists or physicians with invasive and non-invasive diagnostic tests. An entry-level job may be obtained after completing a degree program, and career advancement may be possible through voluntary professional certification.

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