Pros and Cons of Being an Echo Vascular Scientist
Echo vascular scientists help physicians detect disorders in a patient's arteries, veins, heart chambers and valves. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of a career as an echo vascular scientist to decide if it could be the right choice for you.
|Pros of Being an Echo Vascular Scientist|
|High-growth field (30% growth projected between 2012-2022)*|
|Decent pay ($55,210 mean annual salary as of May 2014)*|
|Mostly steady hours (5-day, 40-hour work week)**|
|Cooperative working conditions as part of a focused medical team*|
|Relatively short training period (A 2-year associate's degree program is a common requirement)*|
|Cons of Being an Echo Vascular Scientist|
|A lot of time on your feet*|
|Can be stressful (requires helping patients who are in extreme pain, and some duties are performed during surgery)*|
|Potential for working on-call and irregular hours (emergencies, night and weekend duty)**|
|May have to lift and turn patients to help them in and out of position*|
|Might have to get certified to find employment*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **Society for Vascular Ultrasound
Echo vascular professionals can play an important part in the diagnosis and eventual treatment of potentially dangerous conditions of a patient's heart or vascular system. You'll perform tests to check blood flow through veins or examine heart vessels and valves. Echo vascular sonography is a non-invasive procedure, which means that the patient's body is not penetrated or incised. Using ultrasound instruments, like echocardiograms or Doppler tests, the technologist scans a specified area to detect problems or disorders.
The application of Doppler ultrasound produces sounds and pictures that alert the examiner to abnormalities that might exist in the flow of blood in veins and arteries. Blood pressure and oxygen count are among the types of additional data received and recorded in the procedure. You'll also perform tests using echocardiograms. In this type of test, sound waves are converted to a high definition, 2-dimensional computer image of the heart, which provides more details than an x-ray.
Your duties as an echo vascular scientist begin with the patient. You prepare a patient for the procedure, explaining what is to take place and what's expected of him or her. You'll have to interview the patient and examine medical records to ascertain pertinent information. You then perform a physical examination of the patient and record data such as pulse rate and blood pressure.
Depending on the patient's age, physical limitations or disabilities, you may be required to manually relocate the patient to the examining stage and see to it that he or she is positioned properly. You then perform the procedure and record the results. Once you've compiled the results of the examination and procedure, they're submitted to a physician, who reviews the data and completes the report.
Job Prospects and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities for all cardiovascular and vascular technologists to increase 30% from 2012-2022. This is much faster than the national average for all occupations. This may be partly due to the preference for non-invasive procedures, which tend to be less risky, less costly and more convenient than invasive diagnostic procedures. While hospitals are the source for most employment opportunities as of 2014, positions for echo vascular scientists are opening in physician's offices and diagnostic laboratories. In 2014, the BLS determined the mean annual wages for these technologists, including echo vascular scientists, to be about $55,210.
While on-the-job training is possible, according to the BLS, most employers are looking for candidates who have completed an accredited formal education program, such as a 2-year program leading to an associate's degree. Programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In most programs, you receive basic training in applied principles of cardiovascular technology through didactic and in-person clinical instruction. In addition, some programs offer specializations in echocardiography or vascular technology. Many programs include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, which employers often require.
The BLS points out that employers may accept candidates who have earned an associate's degree in a related health field, such as nursing or radiologic technology, and have received additional on-the-job training in echo vascular technology. In addition, community colleges offer 1-year programs leading to a certificate for those who've undergone related healthcare training or education.
To work as an echo vascular scientist, you'll need to be able to stand for long periods of time and lift patients when needed. You'll also need strong communication and interpersonal skills to be able to interact with patients who are in pain or stress.
What Employers Are Looking for
While the BLS reports that certification is not required, many employers look for applicants who hold credentials in cardiac sonography or vascular technology. Employers seek applicants with at least two years of experience who can work as part of a team and can work on-call or on occasional weekends. Below are a number of actual job postings for echo vascular scientists made available in March 2012:
- A health care center at a school in North Carolina was looking for an echo vascular sonographer. Candidate needed to be certified as a Registered Vascular Technologist or Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer. At least two years of work experience and the ability to perform echo and Doppler tests were required. Duties included performing venous and arterial duplex imaging, Doppler ultrasound and echocardiography.
- A Missouri health system sought applicants for a full-time position as an echo vascular technician. Applicant needed an associate's degree and certification or eligibility to be certified in cardiac sonography or vascular technology. Duties included performing cardiac and vascular imaging and coordinating patient procedures.
- A regional medical center in Texas wanted to hire an echo vascular technologist for a part-time position. Applicant needed either a certificate or degree from an accredited school of echo/cardiovascular technology, certification in cardiovascular technology and registered or eligible to be registered in vascular ultrasound. At least two years of work experience in an echo vascular laboratory and the ability to perform and interpret the results from echocardiogram and vascular sonography procedures were required.
- A multi-state health system was looking for an echo vascular technologist to fill a full-time position PRN, which means you would perform your duties as the situation arises. Applicants needed to complete an accredited allied health education program, which included a 6-12-month internship in vascular ultrasound. Two years of clinical vascular experience was preferred. Duties included performing patient medical investigation, non-invasive vascular diagnostic examinations and incidental office duties and acting as a liaison between patients and physicians.
How Can I Stand Out?
The BLS mentions that a professional attitude and desire might stand you in good stead. If you're willing to relocate and you have no objection to working flexible, irregular and sometimes long hours, your chances of landing a job may significantly improve.
Technically, certification isn't necessary to work as a vascular technologist. However, the BLS makes note of the fact that most employers prefer to hire certified or registered technologists. Certification is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Certification stands in testimony to the quality of your training and professionalism.
The BLS states that while job opportunities are very good, you're more likely to secure a desired position if you hold multiple professional credentials. With additional on-the-job and formal training, you may be qualified to sit for ARDMS registration examinations, such as the following:
- Adult echocardiography
- Pediatric echocardiography
- Fetal echocardiography
- Abdominal diagnostic medical sonography
- Breast diagnostic medical sonography
Other Fields to Consider
If you're not sure if being an echo vascular scientist is the right choice for you, you might consider related careers. Radiologic technologists specialize in areas such as x-ray technology, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, bone densitometry technology or mammography. You may qualify to become a radiologic technologist by completing a formal postsecondary education program, such as an associate's degree program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and earning a license.
To become licensed you must have completed a JRCERT-accredited program and sit for a certification examination administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In 2010, the BLS determined the mean annual salary of radiologic technologists to be about $54,300.
If you find yourself more interested in the treatment side of healthcare, rather than the diagnostic side, you might want to consider a career as a radiation therapist. Dealing primarily with the treatment of various forms of cancer, a radiation therapist works as part of an oncology team. Using a linear accelerator, a radiation therapist applies high-energy x-rays to a specific area of an affected organ. This is done to reduce or eradicate the cancer cells. The BLS states that most employers prefer to hire radiation therapists who have completed an ARRT-accredited associate's or bachelor's degree program.
Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed. Though licensure requirements may vary from state to state, some common requirements are graduation from an accredited program and sitting for a certification examination, administered by ARRT. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for radiation therapists were expected to increase 20% from 2010-2020. The mean annual wages for radiation therapists was determined to be about $75,000, as of May 2010 BLS data.