Do you have an affinity for the heart and lungs? Are you passionate about helping people live heart-healthy lives? Well, then a healthcare career in cardiopulmonary may just be in your future. Let’s take a closer look at who these allied healthcare workers are, what they do, and what their job outlook looks like.
- The role of cardiopulmonary workers
- Cardiopulmonary specialties in demand
- The demand for cardiopulmonary professionals
The Job Outlook for Traveling Cardiopulmonary Professionals
The role of cardiopulmonary workers
Cardiopulmonary healthcare workers are experts in all things heart and lungs. These allied professionals treat patients who have been diagnosed with bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), angina, heart attack, and other heart or lung conditions.
But that’s not all. In addition to treating diseases that affect the heart and lungs, a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist may also:
- Explain conditions to patients and help them resume to daily activities
- Identify risk factors that could contribute to each patient’s individual health
- Suggest interventions, treatments including certain medications, and lifestyle changes to reduce future health risks
- Educate and support patients in their health journey
- Keep patients motivated and supported
No matter what the condition or illness, a cardiac rehab specialist helps patients keep their lungs and hearts healthy. As a cardiopulmonary traveler, you help patients across the U.S. live their fullest, healthiest lives.
Cardiopulmonary specialties in demand
Not only are cardiopulmonary workers experts in all things heart and lungs, but they also practice in a wide variety of specialties. These are some of the cardiopulmonary jobs most in demand.
Registered respiratory therapist (RRT)
RRTs are healthcare professionals who focus on patients who have trouble breathing, usually from a chronic respiratory disease like asthma or emphysema. From 2020 to 2030, the career is expected to grow 23%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, and may create about 10,100 RRT openings each year on average over the decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To become a registered respiratory therapist, you must first complete a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) program. Typically, these programs vary in length from two to six years and require that the student complete an associate of science (AS) or associate of applied science (AAS) degree, while others require a four-year Bachelor of Science degree.
After you’ve completed your CoARC program, it’s time to apply for and take the therapist multiple-choice (TMC) examination. This test is designed to objectively evaluate an aspiring RRT’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as a professional respiratory therapist. Once you’ve taken the TMC exam, now you can apply for state licensure in the location you want to practice respiratory therapy.
Currently, every state except for Alaska requires that RRTs be licensed. To get licensed, you must pass the TMC exam, submit an application, and pay a fee. Some states may also require you to complete a criminal background check, so make sure you know what your specific state requirements are.
Polysomnographic technologists, or polysomnographers, focus on sleep disorders and assist in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of such conditions. Some common sleep disorders they study include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, cataplexy, and insomnia.
In addition to research and treatment efforts, polysomnographic technologists educate and counsel patients who suffer from sleep disorders to help them self-manage their diagnosis.
As the U.S. population continues to age and grow, the demand for polysomnographers also increases. Between 2018 and 2028, it’s expected the career will grow 11%, adding more jobs to the profession.
To become a polysomnographer, you must complete a program at an accredited institution. After you’ve completed your education, now it’s time to pass the A-STEP program. This program equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in the profession of sleep technology. Lastly, there are 12 U.S. states that currently require licensure for sleep technologists. Is your state one of them?
During heart surgery for those with chronic heart disease, it’s imperative that the surgeon work on a still heart — that’s where a perfusionist comes in. A perfusionist is a specialized healthcare professional who operates a heart-lung machine, which propels oxygenated blood into a patient’s tissues while the surgeon operates on the heart. As the cardiac surgeon operates on the heart, the perfusionist manages the physiological and metabolic needs of the patient.
Fun fact: between 2018 and 2028, perfusionists can expect a 7% job growth across the U.S. If you want to begin a career as a perfusionist, you must complete your bachelor’s degree in perfusion science. Here you’ll complete courses like organic chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology. Not only do students require classroom training, but they’re also required to complete clinical training, as well. Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, you can then take your certification exam through the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion.
Anesthesia technicians are an anesthesiologists’ right-hand person in and outside of the operating room. That includes setting up equipment, providing supplies, and ensuring careful patient care. According to the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT), the main responsibility of an anesthesia technician is to prepare and maintain anesthesia equipment. However, specific day-to-day duties may vary based on location. Between 2019 and 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the career to grow by 31%.
In order to start your anesthesia tech career, you must first complete an approved associate degree program, many of which are recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Once your education is completed, apply and complete the Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) exam. After you’ve aced your exam, you can officially apply for an entry-level anesthesia tech position.
The demand for cardiopulmonary professionals
Sure, cardiopulmonary workers are in demand year-round, but even more so during these cold winter months. Health experts say that we’re more likely to get sick during the winter, not just because more time is spent together indoors, but also because viruses tend to live longer in colder temperatures.
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there are millions of cases of the common cold with the average adult contracting at least two colds a year. The CDC also says that the common cold is the “main reason that children miss school and adults miss work,” so of course respiratory care professionals would see more patients during December, January, and February. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 23% growth rate for cardiopulmonary professionals across the country.
Breathing is a subconscious part of everyday life and most people don’t give it a second thought unless they’re meditating, doing yoga, or are in labor. But the fact of the matter is, the heart and lungs are a couple of the most important organs in the human body, and no one knows them better than cardiopulmonary healthcare professionals. From hospitals to rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists are needed everywhere, so get out there and find your path.