A cardiac catheterization lab technician, or cath lab tech, assists physicians during cardiac catheterization procedures. These minimally invasive tests check for blockages in the arteries and help diagnose heart disease.
As a cath lab tech, your main role is to help set up the catheterization equipment and assist the doctor during the procedure. This includes preparing the patient, sterilizing the catheterization area, and handing instruments to the physician during the surgery.
Some Coursework typically covers:
- Anatomy and physiology of the heart
- Cath lab equipment and safety procedures
- Radiation protection
- Sterile technique and infection control
- EKG rhythm interpretation
After completing a training program, you’ll need to become certified. The most common certification for cath lab techs is the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) credential offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).
Cath lab techs provide an important service assisting physicians during life-saving heart procedures. With the aging population, the job outlook for cath lab techs is very positive. If you want a rewarding career in healthcare, becoming a cardiac catheterization lab technician is an excellent choice.
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Skills and Education Needed to Become a Cath Lab Tech
To become a cath lab tech, you’ll need both the proper skills and education.
Cath lab techs should have excellent hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity to handle the tiny tools and equipment. You’ll also need to be detail-oriented to properly set up, test and operate sensitive medical devices. Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills are important for diagnosing issues. Interpersonal skills are also key for working with doctors, nurses and patients.
The minimum requirement is an associate’s degree or postsecondary nondegree award in cardiovascular technology. Many cath lab techs earn a bachelor’s in health sciences. Coursework usually includes anatomy, medical terminology, and training with cath lab equipment.
Some hospitals provide on-the-job training, but earning a degree or certification shows your competence. The most well-known is the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) credential from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). To become RCIS-certified, you need an associate’s degree and to pass an exam.
Once on the job, cath lab techs receive extensive training to prepare for the technical work assisting physicians during cardiac catheterization procedures. Continuing education is also required to maintain certification and stay up-to-date with advances in technology and treatment.
Top Online Cath Lab Technician Programs
Today, there are several high-quality online programs that can prepare you for this rewarding career. They include;
1. Arizona State University’s Online Program
Arizona State University offers an accredited online program to become a cath lab technician. Their 12-month certificate program covers areas like cardiovascular anatomy, interventional procedures, radiologic technology, and patient care. With ASU’s program, you’ll do a clinical internship at a local healthcare facility to gain real-world experience.
2. Purdue University Global
Purdue Global’s cath lab tech program is a great option if you want flexibility. They offer an online associate’s degree or certificate program you can complete at your own pace. Their courses teach students skills such as operating imaging equipment, monitoring patients during procedures, and assisting physicians. Purdue Global’s program also includes an externship to build your experience.
3. Keiser University
Keiser University offers an online associate of science degree in cardiovascular sonography to prepare you for a career as a cath lab tech. Their program teaches students about areas like vascular anatomy, medical terminology, and diagnostic procedures. Keiser University’s program includes both online coursework as well as hands-on clinical training. Students who graduate from their program can go on to become registered cardiovascular invasive specialists.
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How To Get Certified as a Cardiology Technologist
To become a certified Cardiology Technologist (or Cardiovascular Technologist), you’ll need to complete an accredited training program and pass a certification exam.
Many states require technologists to be licensed or certified. Certification demonstrates your competence and dedication to high professional standards.
Complete a Training Program
The first step is to complete either an associate’s degree or certificate program in Cardiovascular Technology. These programs usually take 18-24 months to complete and include both classroom coursework as well as a clinical internship. Course topics include anatomy, medical terminology, pharmacology, and diagnostic equipment operation. Hands-on clinical experience allows you to gain experience working directly with patients.
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Ways to get a Job as a Cath Lab Technician
There are a few paths you can take to find work as a cath lab technician.
1. Apply Directly to Hospitals and Clinics
Search for open positions on the websites of hospitals, clinics, and private practices in your area that perform catheterization procedures. Submit applications for any cath lab tech roles that match your training and experience. Be sure to highlight your certification and any clinical experience you gained during your program.
2. Use a Healthcare Staffing Agency
Register with staffing agencies that specialize in placing healthcare professionals. Temporary or part-time cath lab tech jobs are common and can be a good way to gain valuable on-the-job experience. Let the agency know you’re open to short-term assignments to get your foot in the door, with the goal of finding a permanent position.
3. Network in the Medical Community
Connect with interventional cardiologists, nurses, and current cath lab technicians in your area. Attend industry conferences and networking events whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to reach out for informational interviews to learn more about open positions and opportunities. Someone in your network may know of jobs that haven’t even been posted yet.
4. Be Flexible in Your Job Search
The job market for cath lab technicians can vary significantly based on location and healthcare trends. You may need to broaden your search to related areas like electrophysiology labs, surgery centers, and hybrid operating rooms. Consider relocating to an area with more job openings if needed. Travel assignments are also an option if you want to gain experience in different facilities.
If you’re detail-oriented, adept with sensitive medical equipment, and want a career helping people in a fast-paced environment, becoming a cath lab tech could be very rewarding. With the right skills and education, you’ll be on your way to this critical role in cardiac care.