Perfusionist: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a perfusionist. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Perfusionist?

Perfusionists use specialized equipment to maintain a patient's heart and lung functions during open-heart or related surgeries. They operate a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, which keeps the patient alive while his or her heart is being operated on. The machine basically acts as an artificial pump to keep blood going throughout the body. Perfusionists are also responsible for dispensing the drug to the patient that stops their heart so the surgeon can operate. These professionals closely monitor blood levels and other indicators to make sure the patient is doing well during and after the surgery. They work closely with the surgeons to make sure the right equipment and techniques are used for each procedure. Read more about this career in the table below:

Degree RequiredCertificate
Bachelor's degree
Master's degree
Education Field of StudyPerfusion
Key ResponsibilitiesMonitor patient's cardiovascular functioning during surgery
utilize heart-lung equipment during surgery, under physician's direction
administer blood products and medications,
control patient's body temperature and blood flow
Licensure/CertificationOptional certification
Job Growth (2014-2024)22% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians*
Median Salary (2017)$106,133**

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Would I Do as a Perfusionist?

Perfusion is a procedure that uses a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, also called a heart-lung machine, to maintain a patient's normal heart and lung functions while surgical procedures, like open-heart surgery, are conducted. As a perfusionist, you would operate this extracorporeal, meaning outside of the body, machine, preparing the patient before surgery, closely monitoring blood levels during surgery and carefully removing the patient from the machine when the procedure is complete. You would work in the operating room with the surgical team, and you may be on-call to assist with surgeries when the need arises.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

Because of the specialized nature of this job, you need some formal training as a perfusionist. The Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs accredits cardiopulmonary perfusion programs at the certificate, bachelor's and master's degree levels (www.caahep.org). To enter a certificate program, you need a bachelor's degree, including some prerequisite courses like biology and chemistry. In a perfusion training program, you study basic sciences and the techniques of cardiopulmonary bypass and extracorporeal circuits. You also participate in clinical procedures in order to practice your perfusion skills.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Though you don't need to be certified, you may choose to seek certification after a few years of work as a perfusionist. The American Society of Extracorporeal Technology notes that the Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) designation is becoming the standard in the field (www.amsect.org). The American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion offers the CCP certification, for which you are eligible to test after completing an accredited perfusion training program and 75 clinical perfusions (www.abcp.org). The exam for certification consists of two parts, the Perfusion Basic Science Examination and the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Examination.

What Salary Could I Earn?

According to 2017 statistics from PayScale.com, salaries of perfusionists ranged from $80,737 to $147,464. With an aging population, patients may require more cardiac procedures, so the job prospects for perfusionists should be excellent.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Medical laboratory technologists are related positions that require a bachelor's degree. These professionals usually work in a lab analyzing various samples that they have collected from patients. They run different medical tests on blood, tissue and other samples. Radiologic and MRI technologists are also related positions, but only require an associate's degree. Radiologic technologists work with medical equipment like x-ray machines. They operate the machines to create diagnostic images of different areas on the body of a patient. MRI technologists also create diagnostic images, but they are specifically trained to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.

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