Perfusion Technology

Perfusion technology is a potentially rewarding career that could allow you to save lives and make a substantial salary. However, this can be stressful work that often requires irregular hours. Check out the following resources to see if this is the right career for you.

Is Perfusion Technology for Me?

Career Details

Perfusion technology involves operating heart-lung machines and other life-sustaining equipment during medical procedures, particularly heart procedures like open heart surgery. Working in this field, you might be called an extracorporeal circulation specialist, cardiovascular perfusionist or simply a perfusionist.

Job Duties

Your main job will be operating the equipment that temporarily keeps patients alive when their heart or lung function has been stopped. Your other job duties during surgery might include administering medications or blood products and controlling patient temperature. Although the equipment does the really hard work, you need to be observant of even small changes and respond in a quick and clear-headed manner in a true life or death situation. Prior to surgery, you'll likely be responsible for setting up the necessary medical equipment and making sure everything works perfectly.

Outside of the operating room, you might have administrative or supervisory duties that could include hiring support technicians and purchasing supplies or equipment. You may also help physicians select the best extracorporeal equipment and techniques for a given surgery or patient. Most perfusionists work in hospitals and surgical centers, but with experience you might also work in administration, education, product development, sales or marketing.

Employment Information

To get started in this field, you need to complete a specialized perfusion technology training program, and continuing education is generally required to stay on top of new techniques and technologies. To excel in this field, you also need to be detail-oriented and able to handle stressful situations with ease. Although some perfusionists may have regular work hours, you're likely to be on call much of the time, including nights and weekends. As of March 2014, the annual salary range for most cardio-pulmonary perfusionists was $75,274 to $123,934, according to PayScale.com.

How Can I Work in Perfusion Technology?

Education

Only a small number of schools in the U.S. offer programs in perfusion technology. Program lengths and admission requirements vary, and programs may lead to a bachelor's degree, graduate certificate or master's degree in perfusion technology or perfusion science. If you're pursuing this field directly out of high school, you might complete a 4-year bachelor's degree program. However, if you already have a bachelor's degree in a healthcare field like nursing or medical assisting, or even an undergraduate education strong in the sciences, you may be able to get started in perfusion technology with a graduate certificate or master's degree program; these types of programs can often be completed in two years or less.

Program Curriculum

Regardless of length, a perfusion technology program is likely to include clinical rotations, research labs and several courses in cardiovascular perfusion technology. You might also take courses in molecular and cell biology, perfusion anatomy and physiology, microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and medical ethics. A master's degree program may be more research-focused and may also have a project requirement.

Licensing and Certification

Some states require you to have a license to work in perfusion technology. This often requires you to gain professional certification from the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP), which awards the Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) credential (www.abcp.org). You must meet education requirements to be eligible to sit for the 2-part written exam.

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