A catheterization lab tech is a type of cardiovascular technologist who is also known as a cardiology technologist or a catheter cardiology technologist. Cath lab techs specialize in assisting physicians and other medical professionals to provide cardiovascular – or heart-related – diagnostic and operative services. They typically need a formal education, and earn wages that are well above the national average.
A cath lab tech monitors a patient’s heart rate, and also helps cardiac physicians to detect any irregularities or problems with a patient’s heart. Cath lab techs assist in cardiac catheterization, which is the process of threading a catheter through the patient’s heart. Also, they may prep the patient for open-heart surgery by cleaning and shaving the catheter insertion site. In addition, cath lab techs monitor a patient’s blood and heart rate during open-heart surgery, and while stents and pacemakers are being inserted into the patient. Cath lab technologists usually work in hospitals, medical centers, or in physician offices, and must be confident using a variety of equipment, monitors and other medical devices.
Cath lab techs need formal education, such as a Cardiovascular Technology Associate in Applied Science Degree. For example, students at the Milwaukee Area Technical College take such courses as essentials of cardiovascular care, invasive CVT fundamentals and cardiovascular agents. They also learn patient care skills, aseptic techniques used to prepare and handle instruments, and basic operative procedures. Their education includes a combination of coursework and supervised clinical work.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians – which include cath lab tech, cardiac sonographers and cardiovascular technicians – is projected to grow by 30 percent from 2012 through 2022, which is more than double the national average growth rate for all other jobs. An aging baby-boomer population, combined with federal legislation providing increased health coverage, will fuel employment opportunities.
Salary of Cath Lab Techs
As with job outlook data, the BLS provides a single category for cardiovascular technologists and technicians. According to May 2013 wage estimates, these healthcare professionals earn a mean annual wage of $53,990, or a mean hourly wage of $25.95. The median annual wage is $53,210. Those at the 90 percentile earn a median annual wage of $82,920, while those at the 10 percentile earn a median annual wage of $27,810.