The term "vascular" refers to the vessels that circulate fluids, such as blood, throughout the body. A vascular technologist is an allied health professional who specializes in the use ultrasound equipment and technologies to help physicians diagnose disorders related to the body’s blood flow. While the similar occupation of cardiovascular technologist focuses on the blood flow of the heart, a vascular technologist addresses blood flow to the entire body.
Although some vascular technologists are trained on the job, employers increasingly prefer applicants with formal education and registration. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredits cardiovascular education programs throughout the United States. Most programs lead to an associate degree in cardiovascular technology. Along with education, employers prefer techs who have credentials. Organizations such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography provide credentials for vascular technologists. To become certified and registered, candidates must complete an accredited education program, submit an application and fee, and pass an exam.
Vascular technologists prepare patients for diagnostic procedures and answer questions that patients might have. Under the supervision and direction of a physician or surgeon, they perform noninvasive ultrasound diagnostic procedures to diagnose potential disorders of the blood vessels, veins and arteries. The tests can look at oxygen levels, blood pressure and speed of the blood flow in veins and arteries. In some cases, a vascular technologist monitors patients’ blood flow during surgeries.
The work of a vascular technologist is performed in sanitized health care facilities such as hospitals, outpatient care centers and physicians’ offices. Because many hospitals are open 24-hours a day, they may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays. They work in scrubs, use gloves, hair covers and surgical masks to protect themselves and their patients. Vascular technologists spend most of their day standing for long periods of time.
Careers and Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 29 percent growth for cardiovascular and vascular technologists between 2010 and 2020, which compares to a 14 percent average growth prediction for all U.S. occupations. Growth is attributed to advances in technology that will allow for more use of less-invasive procedures. Along with technology, the U.S. aging population will require these procedures for preventative health care. Health insurance providers prefer noninvasive procedures because they are less costly. In 2011, the annual mean wage was $52,160 per year for these professionals, according to the BLS.