Cardiac Echo Training Programs, Courses and Requirements
Echocardiography is a non-invasive medical practice that employs ultrasound waves to produce a sonogram of the heart. Cardiac echo training programs are offered through technical and community colleges, most often as 2-year degrees. Cardiac echo trained professionals can find work in cardiology offices and hospitals.
Training Requirements and Recommendations
Echocardiographers, also known as cardiac sonographers, capture images of the heart, note any abnormalities and document their findings for the referring physician. While these heart specialists most commonly receive their cardiac echo training through an associate degree program, certificate and diploma programs are also available. Employers usually hire echocardiographers with professional designations; many employers also require basic life support certification.
Cardiac echo training programs combine hands-on instruction with didactic lessons on the theory, technology and equipment used to produce quality cardiac sonograms. They also prepare students for national registry and certification exams.
Associate of Applied Science in Cardiovascular Technology
Students studying cardiovascular technology gain an overview of invasive techniques, but can opt to focus on non-invasive procedures. They take foundational classes in electrophysiology, anatomy, physiology and medical terminology. Echocardiography undergraduates also learn about:
- Heart and vascular abnormalities
- Pacemaker technology
- Doppler testing procedures
- Electrocardiograms and stress testing techniques
- Test results interpretation
Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Within a diagnostic medical sonography program, students have the option to specialize in echocardiography. They learn about heart health and diseases and study different cardiac echo techniques, such as vascular sonography and transesophageal echocardiography. They also take classes in:
- Acoustical physics
- Sectional anatomy
- Medical vocabulary
- Cardiovascular principles
Cardiac echo training programs offer students ample opportunity for practical experience, usually 4-5 clinical rotations. Upon completion, new graduates with industry credentials can often find employment. However, some employers may require at least one year of postgraduate experience.
Licenses and Certifications
Most states in the U.S. do not require echocardiographers to be licensed. Instead, cardiac echo technologists often pursue professional credentialing through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). While certifications are voluntary, they are typically required for employment. In order to qualify for CCI's Registered Cardiac Sonographer or ARDMS's Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer designation, applicants must meet minimum education requirements and pass each organization's exams. Continuing education requirements are needed to maintain certifications; recertification testing may also be required.
Workshops and Seminars
Medical organizations, such as the American Society of Echocardiography (www.asecho.org), often sponsor 4-5 day long scientific conferences. Attendees can participate in educational presentations, lectures and workshops, which may focus on topics from trends in treatment to heart and valve diseases. Shorter 1-2 day seminars are also offered throughout the year.
Additional Professional Development
Echocardiographers can stay abreast of industry issues and gain helpful tips by looking to industry websites, which often feature articles and photo galleries. Additionally, echocardiography-related websites allow visitors to subscribe to virtual newsletters. Web-based discussion forums are also available in general echocardiography or may be specific to fetal, pediatric or adult echocardiography.
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