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Perfusionists are trained to operate heart-lung machines; they assist physicians during open-heart surgery. Depending on the program, the entry requirement and degree training for perfusionists are varied. In addition to satisfying prerequisite science courses, some perfusionist programs require students to have between 60 and 80 credit hours of coursework before beginning their training. Others require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree or a combination of formal education in health science and practical work experience.
In the United States, there are approximately 21 schools that offer perfusionist programs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Perfusionist training is offered at the certificate, bachelor’s and masters degree levels. Health care practitioners like medical assistants, nurses or paramedics with a bachelor’s degree can enroll in either a certificate or master’s degree program in perfusion science. High school graduates or individuals without a formal degree should enroll into a bachelor’s degree program. Master’s degree and certificate programs in perfusion science can be completed within one to two years. Full-time undergraduate students can complete their training within four years.
Applicants seeking their bachelor’s degree in perfusion science are required to complete between 60 semester or 90 quarters of coursework in the liberal arts and sciences. This includes completion of prerequisite courses in organic chemistry, physics and anatomy and physiology. Prospective students must also satisfy minimum grade point requirements. Students receive classroom and clinical training, which includes participation in adult and pediatric open-heart surgical procedures. Graduates from the program are eligible to take their certification examination through the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion.
Applicants seeking a master’s degree in perfusion science should have a bachelor’s degree and must meet minimum grade-point average requirements. Master’s degree candidates should fulfill prerequisite course requirements by taking subjects like algebra, calculus, physics and general biology. Additional prerequisite courses include laboratory training in subjects like biochemistry, microbiology and organic chemistry. A master’s degree in perfusion science can be completed within two years. During their final semester, graduate students must satisfy their clinical requirements.
Graduates from a perfusion science program must take a certification examination through the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Certified perfusionists have to maintain their credentials by taking continuing education and professional development courses. In order to renew a perfusionist’s license, candidates must perform at least 40 perfusion cases each year. Depending on a candidate’s formal training, perfusionist programs require at least 20 to 24 months of training. Candidates with a formal training in health science fields may be able to complete their training in less than 20 months.
Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.