Education and Training: College degree plus specialized training
Salary: Median—$96,144 per year
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
Cardiac perfusionists set up and operate heart-lung machines, which take over the functions of a patient's heart and lungs during heart surgery. The word "perfusion" means to pump a liquid into an organ or tissue, usually via blood vessels. In this case, the liquid is blood with the heart-lung machine doing the pumping.
As part of their jobs, cardiac perfusionists must review patients' medical history and current status, and set up and test the heart-lung machine and related equipment. Perfusionists operate the machine to regulate blood circulation and composition, control body temperature, and administer any necessary drugs. They also communicate to the rest of the operating room team how the patient is doing.
Education and Training Requirements
To obtain employment, a cardiac perfusionist must have a Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) credential from the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. To obtain this credential, an applicant must have graduated from an accredited training program in cardiovascular perfusion by the time of the examination. He or she must also have performed at least seventy-five clinical perfusions during training and have received a letter of satisfactory clinical competency from their school. Certified perfusionists must recertify each year by meeting requirements for clinical activity and continuing education.
Requirements for entrance to a perfusionist training program is a bachelor's degree in science or nursing, or a certain number of undergraduate credits. In some colleges and universities, the program leads to a bachelor's degree. Other colleges and universities offer a graduate program leading to certification and possibly to a master's degree. Programs are not available in every state, admit only a few students, and are rigorous.
Getting the Job
In June 2005 there were only four thousand perfusionists employed throughout the United States. The school at which you receive your training may be able to help you obtain employment. You can also apply directly to hospitals, finding information about openings from newspapers and the Internet.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A perfusionist may advance to chief perfusionist with three to five years of experience. A chief perfusionist is an administrator who supervises other perfusionists and is responsible for budgeting.
Employment opportunities for perfusionists are excellent due to the high level of heart disease in the United States. As the population ages, perfusionists will be needed in increasing numbers. Further advancements in the technology used in cardiac surgery are also expected to increase career opportunities for cardiac perfusionists.
Perfusionists work in well-lighted, sterile environments in hospital operating rooms. They may stand for six to eight hours per day and may have to lift machinery. The operating room environment can be stressful. Perfusionists work with physicians, nurses, and other operating room personnel.
Where to Go for More Information
American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion
PO Box 3596
Allentown, PA 18106-0596
17080 Safety St., Ste. 108
Fort Myers, FL 33908
The American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion
207 N. 25th Ave.
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
American Society of Extra-Corporeal Technology
2209 Dickens Rd.
PO Box 11086
Richmond, VA 23230-1086
Earnings and Benefits
In 2006 the salary range for most perfusionists was $87,569 to $105,609 per year. The median salary was $96,144. Perfusionists generally received health care, disability insurance, vacations, and retirement plans.