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Cardiac Stress Technologist


Description

In order to detect if a person has a heart condition, cardiac stress technologists work with cardiologist to perform stress tests on symptomatic patients. Cardiac stress technologists perform and interpret cardiology tests to provide information needed for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Treadmill-only testing is still considered an appropriate initial procedure for many patients being worked up for chest pain, palpitations, or arrhythmia. Yet, the most common form of stress testing is the using an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine, which tests a patient's heart while they walk on a treadmill under supervision. The technologist documents the patient's medical history, attaches electrodes to patient's arms, legs and chest area, according to a specified pattern, and connects electrode leads to an electrocardiograph machine. The technologist is required to explain the procedure to the patient and obtain their consent to begin the process.

Throughout the procedure, the cardiac stress technologist stands alongside the patient to lend support if necessary, while monitoring the heart's performance. During the test, the cardiologist speeds up the pace of the treadmill to see how the patient's heart will react to exertion. The speed at which the patient achieves target heart rate determines the exercise time. The stress technologist monitors the heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure and electrical changes on the ECG throughout the procedure. When the test is complete, the technologist records the data and informs the physician of any wave abnormalities on the ECG.

There are several types of other cardiac stress tests that use imaging. Each is designed to stress the heart and to monitor the heart's response to stress. Stress echocardiograms obtain rest images of the heart, before exercise and immediately after treadmill exercise, using cardiac ultrasound. Ultrasound imaging increases the accuracy over the basic treadmill stress test for coronary artery disease. Again, heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure and electrical changes are monitored throughout the testing procedure. The ultrasound is painless and takes approximately one and a half hours.

Nuclear stress testing with Cardiolite increases the technologist's accuracy in detecting heart disease. A catheter is placed in the patient's arm to inject Cardiolite into the body during the rest and exercise phase of the test. A cardiologist, cardiac stress technologist and nuclear medicine technologist are present throughout the treadmill testing phase. Some people are skeptical about using Cardiolite due to its radioactive nature, however doctors say that Cardiolite involves the same radiation levels as being exposed to an x-ray. Finally, for all cardiac stress tests, technologists instruct patients to wear comfortable clothing and sneakers or comfortable walking shoes.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Cardiac stress technologists are interested in helping people, first and foremost. They must be mature and self-confident and emotionally stable. They have excellent communication skills and can get along with people well, be patient and instill confidence. Confidence is also important in being able to think and act quickly in high stress situations. Finally, cardiac stress technologists should enjoy finding solutions to problems and constantly dealing with people.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Operate electrocardiogram and other electronic equipment to record cardiac activity of patients
  • Prepare patients for cardiology procedures and tests, such as exercise stress testing and pacemaker analysis
  • Perform and monitor cardiac activity and record results
  • Measure patients' blood flow by analyzing their bodies' use of oxygen
  • Ensure patient comfort and safety during tests
  • Prepare reports for interpretation by cardiologists outlining the results of diagnostic procedures
  • Check cardiology equipment to ensure proper operation
  • May supervise and train student and other cardiology technologists
  • The exact duties and responsibilities of a cardiac stress technologist are often dependent upon the particular institution where an individual works. They generally work standard 40-hour workweeks, which may include evening and weekend work. Some technologists work on-call and/or in shifts therefore hours can be irregular and long at times. Cardiac stress technologists also spend a great majority of their time on their feet. They may also be expected to help lift and move patients from wheelchairs to beds.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most cardiology technologists work in hospital cardiology departments, however, some are employed in private laboratories and clinics.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for cardiac stress technologists? Registered cardiac stress technologists may take qualifying examinations in special areas such as pacemakers and ambulatory monitoring to change the focus of their career. With years of experience, they may advance to clinical specialists or supervisory positions. However, without additional education, opportunities for advancement are limited.
 

  Educational Paths  
Cardiac stress technologists must complete of a two-year college, hospital or alternative training program in cardiology technology coupled with a supervised practical training internship.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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