Popular major offers solid career opportunity
Northeast State’s Cardiovascular Technology Program remains one of the most popular and competitive programs in the College’s Division of Health-Related Professions. Cardiovascular Technology (CVT) focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cardiac and vascular disease. The CVT program prepares students with emphasis for work in catheterization labs and echocardiography labs.
“Students begin clinical observation in the first semester and hands-on clinical experiences with patients in the second semester,” said Sharon Mason, director and an alumna of the program. “Their observation time in the clinical setting allows them to see the environment where they will be working.”
The CVT program accepts 20 students each year through a competitive application process. The class divides evenly, 10 and 10, into one of the program’s two options: invasive cardiology and non-invasive cardiology.
“The cohort element keeps the entire class together from entrance to graduation,” said Mason.
Students accepted into the program begin classes during the second summer term. By fall, students find themselves spending time in health care facilities getting clinical experience in addition to classroom and laboratory time.
Invasive cardiology involves cardiovascular procedures including balloon angioplasty and electrophysiology. The procedures use a small tube called a catheter threaded through a patient’s artery to determine whether a blockage exists in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle.
The non-invasive cardiology option trains echocardiography technologists to perform non-invasive tests that do not require entrance into the patient’s body. Echocardiography uses Doppler ultrasound to transmit high frequency sound waves into areas of the heart and process reflected echoes of the sound waves to form an image.
Students learn traditional clinical procedures with life-sized human mannequins in laboratory practice. Both options use high-tech digital imaging simulators for students to practice conducting cardiac catheterizations and performing sonograms.
“We simulate the clinical procedures they will be practicing in a hospital setting,” said Mason. “We can program different diseases processes into the simulators to test students on detecting changes in the heart.”
The College established the Cardiovascular Technology Program as an academic program in 1999. Thirteen classes have graduated. A photograph of each class is displayed in the program’s lab area at Regional Center for Health Professions, well known to the students as “The Wall of Fame.”
Mason became program director earlier this summer after former director Connie Marshall was named dean of the Health-Related Professions division. She is the instructor for the non-invasive courses, and manages the program’s overall operation along with fellow full-time instructor Angela Slone, who teaches the invasive CVT courses and both guide students to program completion.
Northeast State is one of only 31 cardiovascular programs nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology. Graduates then qualify to take the national certifying examination to become practicing cardiovascular technologists.
“Once they graduate and pass the national exam, they have the credentials to work in any state,” said Mason. “We’ve got students working in Virginia, South Carolina, New York, Nebraska, and Kentucky among other states. There are many opportunities for the graduates.”