When cardiac surgeons perform open-heart surgery, they rely on a perfusionist to operate machinery that continues to pump oxygenated blood through the patient. Keep reading to discover education and employment options for this career path.

Inside the World of a Perfusionist

Perfusion involves the equipment and procedures necessary to keep surgical patients alive when their heart or lungs are stopped. Perfusionists assemble, operate and monitor equipment that keeps oxygen-rich blood pumping through the circulatory system. There are fewer than 20 accredited perfusion programs throughout the U.S. at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. The level of program depends on the background of the student. Many people become perfusionists after having careers as paramedics, nurses or other healthcare professionals.

Education and Certification Information

The curriculum of a perfusionist's educational program balances clinical experience with didactic training on cardiopulmonary bypass procedures. Students take advanced courses on human anatomy and physiology. Programs may also include topics in management, pharmacology, ethics and biostatistics. Training involves classroom settings and hospital rotation.

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