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What a Perfusionist does:
A Perfusionist also known as a Clinical Perfusionist or a Cardio-Pulmonary Perfusionist, is a trained allied health professional who uses artificial blood pumps to propel a patients blood during open-heart surgery, extracorporeal life support, and orthopedic and vascular surgery.
During open heart surgery, the patient’s heart is stopped to allow the cardiac surgeon to work. When the heart is stopped the patients blood is diverted into a heart/lung machine, which oxygenates the blood and returns it to the patient’s body.
The perfusionist who operates this machine is responsible for replacing the function of the heart while the cardiac surgeon operates.
The main duties of the Perfusionist include:
- Operating the heart and lung machine during surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass e.g. heart bypass surgery, major organ and heart transplants and heart valve repair. Working closely with the cardiothoracic surgical team, including cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical technicians and nurses
- Responsible for the circulatory and respiratory functions of the heart lung machine
- Making it possible for the surgeon to operate on an unbeating heart
- Allowing the surgical team to carry out their duties without having to deal with the immediate needs of the patient
- Monitoring the heart and lung machine closely when in operation, and taking corrective action in the event of an emergency
- Keeping the Surgeon and Anesthesiologist informed
Education & Qualifications:
To become a Perfusionist you will need to complete a Masters Degree in Perfusion Science. You will then need to become certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP) by passing the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion certification examination.
This examination comprises of two parts. Part one, the Perfusion Basic Science Examination, is a multiple choice examination which covers the basics of perfusion science and cardiopulmonary bypass. Part two, the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Examination, comprises also of multiple choice questions, based on a series of clinical scenarios.
Subjects covered by the examinations include:
Anatomy and Physiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Laboratory Analysis, Devices and Equipment, Quality Assurance, Special Patient Groups, Clinical Management, Special Procedures / Special Techniques, Monitoring and Catastrophic Events and Device Failure.
Salary & Job Prospects:
Perfusionists earn salaries from $90,000 to $120,000 per year. The job prospects in this highly skilled field are excellent, but vary depending on location, experience, position held and qualifications. Certification is mandatory in order to practice. Continuing education is also necessary to maintain certification.
Find an Allied Health School near you:
Use the Further Your Career zip code search box to find schools and colleges in your area that offer alliedhealth / medical technology programs.
Below is a list of some of the various types of allied health careers / professions: