Respiratory therapists can train to become extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, specialists. Therapists seeking the ECMO credential must be certified by the National Board of Respiratory Care, possess clinical experience and, in some states, hold a license to practice. Training is usually conducted on-site at ECMO centers. Since ECMO specialists work with the critically ill, successful training can make the difference between saving a life and making fatal mistakes.
Conquering Cardiopulmonary Procedures
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation involves creating a cardiopulmonary bypass when a patient experiences heart failure. The patient's blood bypasses the heart and lungs and flows through equipment for cleansing and oxygenation. The ECMO specialist operates the blood pump and artificial oxygenator. He delivers medication, administers blood, monitors ventilation and initiates anti-coagulation procedures. As an ECMO specialist, you might become part of a rapid response team called for cardiac emergencies.
Educating the ECMO
Training for the certification takes place in both experienced and new facilities. Experienced facilities currently practice the ECMO procedure, while new facilities plan to start. Classroom courses include physiology of diseases, equipment training and emergency management. The hands-on portion includes practice on humans and animals. Due to a lack of patients in new facilities, trainees in these facilities spend more time in animal labs than trainees in experienced facilities. When the course is completed, trainees take oral and written exams. The classroom portion takes approximately 24 to 36 hours, while the hands-on training varies.
Obtaining the Training
Universities and companies who partner with hospitals offer ECMO training. The cost will vary by the program. One ECMO training program offered a price of $2,195 in 2014. Consult your supervisor about attending an ECMO specialist course and whether funding for continuing education is available.