Cath Lab Technician: Job Description and Education Requirements

A catheterization laboratory or cath lab technician is a professional who works in the field of cardiovascular technology. Cath lab technicians are vital team members who assist doctors during invasive cardiovascular procedures such as angioplasty, cardiac catheterization, and electrophysiology.

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Job Description for Cath Lab Technicians

Cardiovascular technologists spend most of their working time in operating rooms. Although many of the procedures they assist with have become routine, these technologists work in high stress situations due to the fact that should complications arise, the patient can be quickly placed in a life-threatening position.

Prior to surgery, the technologist is responsible for ensuring the EKG equipment is in working order, and during the procedure, the technologist will monitor the EKG readouts and keep the doctor apprised of anything considered abnormal. The technologist will also prepare the patient for the procedure by cleaning, shaving, and, in the case of cardiac catheterization for angioplasty, anesthetizing the area of insertion.

In some hospitals, the cardiovascular technologist will assist doctors during open heart surgery, and with the insertion of pacemakers or stents. Again, the technologist will be the one responsible for preparing and monitoring the patient in these instances.

Daily non-surgical duties include reading and interpreting test procedures and explaining the procedures to patients. Cardiovascular technologists are exposed to a minor level of radiation in the course of some procedures, but the levels are closely monitored and protected against. During surgical procedures, they spend a great deal of time standing and may be required to help lift and transfer patients.

Salary

As of December 2013, PayScale.com shows salaries for most cath lab technologists ranging from $40,065-$76,333 a year, including overtime pay and bonuses. Following this career path to the next level as a cardiac cath lab manager can lead to salaries ranging between $57,477 and $106,437 annually.

Education Requirements

Most employers require an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Science degree for entry-level employment. These degrees can be attained at a junior or community college. In the first year of study, the student will attend lecture and laboratory classes which include medical instrumentation, cardiovascular physiology, and physical principles of medicine. The second year will place greater emphasis on the technologist's specialization and include on-campus lectures and lab work, as well as clinical work in hospitals.

A large portion of the education process for this specialty is on-the-job training. This training can begin either during the degree program, or in some instances, an employer will hire an aspiring technologist on a volunteer or work-study basis.

Credentialing

Credentialing isn't essential, but most employers prefer hiring cardiovascular technologists who have successfully completed this process. It is also recommended for career advancement. Credentialing is a process administered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). There are four requirements for taking the credentialing test:

  • The technologist must be enrolled in a cardiovascular education program.
  • The technologist must be currently employed in the field.
  • The technologist must have completed degree requirements in this field.
  • The technologist must have completed two years of volunteer work in this field and two years of full time technical duties.

Once these requirements have been fulfilled, a technologist may apply for the examination through CCI. Documentation of all requirements must be provided at the time of application.

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