Cardiology and cardiovascular technicians perform diagnostic procedures and testing on the heart and the vascular system. There are no online certificate or degree programs for cardiology technicians because of the necessary hands-on training, but there are a few certificate and associate's degree hybrid programs. These programs include online courses as well as in-person lab and field work. Many community colleges and technical schools offer these programs.
Students in a certificate program train to become cardiology technicians and learn to operate electrocardiograph (EKG) machines. Certificate programs generally take less than a year to complete. Classes cover healthcare ethics, physiology, anatomy and medical terminology. Clinical experiences give students experience in operating the EKG machines and in working with patients and medical staff. When choosing a program, students should look for one that qualifies them to apply for national certification.
An associate's degree program in cardiovascular technology prepares students for more advanced work, such as assisting physicians with cardiac catheterizations. Some programs allow students to choose a track in invasive or non-invasive cardiovascular technology, while others cover both areas. A few schools allow students to take some prerequisite courses online. These degree programs usually require about two years, and students must take general education courses such as social studies, English composition and mathematics. Again, although credentialing is optional, students should seek a program that qualifies them for certification by national professional organizations in this field.
Cardiology Technician Certificate
An on-campus cardiology technician certificate program trains individuals to perform diagnostic cardiology procedures and testing at the request of licensed physicians. Students are trained to operate EKG machines that record the electrical changes that occur during and between heartbeats. Graduates of a cardiology technician certificate program are prepared to pursue national certification as Certified Cardiographic Technicians (CCTs) through the exam offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Certificate holders can find employment opportunities with doctors' offices, cardiology departments, hospital pre-admission testing areas and a variety of outpatient medical facilities.
Program Information and Requirements
A certificate program of this type can usually be completed within one year. Courses incorporate both theoretical and hands-on instruction. In addition to specific courses in relevant topics to cardiology, students are usually required to complete a basic life support class providing them with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification.
Course requirements for a cardiology technician certificate introduce students to basic concepts and procedures within the allied health profession as a whole, as well as providing focused study within the cardiology. Main topics include healthcare law and ethics, healthcare delivery systems, anatomy, physiology, EKG theory and medical terminology.
Students are introduced to frequently used prefixes and suffixes used in medical terminology. Instruction incorporates commonly used terms from each of the major body systems and presents medical abbreviations.
This course discusses the basic scientific theory behind EKGs and cardiac rhythms. Students are provided with a general overview of cardiac anatomy and physiology. They gain the knowledge and skills needed to recognize cardiac dysrhythmia.
This course trains students in the setup and adjustment of EKG equipment. Students learn to perform stress testing and Holter monitoring and to record vital signs. Methods of performing EKGs and assessing printouts are also covered.
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Cardiovascular Technology Associate's Degree
Associate's degree programs in cardiovascular technology prepare students for employment as cardiovascular technologists. Students learn to perform diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose, treat and provide follow-up medical care for patients with cardiovascular disease. Through hands-on lab opportunities, students become familiar with the sophisticated equipment and procedures used to perform the diagnostic procedures and intervention treatments. Both non-invasive and invasive cardiovascular methods are discussed.
Program Information and Requirements
An associate's degree in cardiovascular technology requires approximately 76 credit hours. This type of program can take up to five semesters to complete. Courses incorporate classroom instruction with lab components to provide students with hands-on experience in the field. While some programs focus on both invasive and non-invasive cardiology, others allow students to choose a specialty track in one or the other.
Common coursework for an associate's degree in cardiovascular technology incorporates courses in a variety of topics relevant to the field, including cardiopulmonary anatomy, cardiovascular pharmacology, and advanced cardiac life support. Some schools allow students to complete several of the pre-requisite or introductory courses online via distance learning. Courses offered online commonly include general education topics and theoretical topics, such as medical terminology.
Cardiovascular Patient Assessment
Students become familiar with the concepts and techniques used to assess patients, including inspection, auscultation, percussion and palpation. Basic ECG monitoring and laboratory values, such as electrolytes and CBC, are presented.
This course presents the theory, rationale, performance, application and interpretation of non-invasive cardiology. Two-dimensional Doppler, auscultation, phonocardiography, and normal heart sounds are discussed. A laboratory portion introduces students to non-invasive cardiology through hands-on experiences.
Emphasis is placed on basic cardiac catheterization theory, protocols and application of angiographic procedures. Other topics include sterilization, patient assessment, cardiac waveforms, coronary artery anatomy and pharmacology.
Cardiovascular technicians conduct tests and perform diagnostic procedures on pulmonary and cardiovascular systems as members of a medical cardiac catheterization team. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for cardiovascular technologists and technicians were projected to increase by 22% between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, the BLS listed the median annual wage for technologists and technicians as $54,880.
Although professional credentialing is considered optional, the BLS reports that most employers are now requiring candidates to obtain certification. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Sonographers (ARDMS) both provide professional credentials for cardiovascular technologists and technicians. Requirements for credentialing typically require candidates to complete an accredited education program and earn a passing score on the credentialing examination. Once professional credentials are obtained, technologists are required to maintain their certification by completing a set number of continuing education credits.
Students interested in a career performing diagnostic cardiology procedures and test may settle with a Cardiology Technician Certificate, but those looking for more training with sophisticated equipment and career advancement may choose to pursue a longer associate's degree program. Due to the need for hands on training, both may be found in a hybrid format and not as a fully online program.