The definition of a perfusionist by the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary is that of a certified medical technician, responsible for and maintenance of equipment (as a heart-lung machine). (Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary ’95 edition) The perfusionist is the heart and the lungs of the patient while they are having open heart or by-pass surgery.A perfusionist has a daily routine similarly to those found in other professions. Also they are required to receive a college degree to be qualified to perform their job. For the hard work put into school and into their profession, the salaries are rewarded handsomely.
The perfusionist may obtain his or her certification by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. To attain this certification, the perfusionist must have a satisfactory performance on two examinations. The first examination is that of Perfusion Basic Science Examination, after successful completion of this examination a second examination must be taken called, Clinical Applications in Perfusion Examination. Once a passing score is obtained on the final exam, a perfusionist obtains his or her CCP or Certified Clinical Perfusionist status. To be eligible to take the Perfusion Basic Science Examination the applicant must have graduated from or is enrolled in accredited School of Cardiovascular Perfusion and must graduate at least four weeks prior to the date of the examination. A clinical education record documenting seventy-five (75) clinical cases must also be completed before the applicant will be considered for the examination process. To be eligible to sit for the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Examination the perfusionist must have first passed the Perfusion Basic Science Examination portion. In addition to this requirement, additional fifty independent clinical perfusions must be performed. (American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion)
Some of the daily preparations that are performed by a perfusionist would consist of reading through a patient’s records to check out the patients history, family history, laboratory tests, cardiology reports and so on. Following this the heart and lung machine needs to be inspected and tested to make sure that it is in proper working order and that the disposables that are used are properly loaded and functional. Next the perfusionist needs to discuss with the surgeon what the needs of the patient may be and also what the needs of the surgeon may be. The perfusionist does this in order to use the correct disposables and correct pump to meet both the demands of the patient and that of the surgeon. After the patient is taken off the heart lung machine (by-pass) the perfusionist is responsible for tearing down his equipment, cleaning up and setting up for his next case. (Nord, Todd)
The patient is brought into the surgical suite and the anesthesiologist along with operating room nurse’s prep the patient for surgery. Once the patient is put to sleep the surgeon can begin his portion of the surgery. The chest is opened and the patient is connected to the heart lung machine by the surgeon. Once the patient is connected to the heart lung machine the heart and lungs of the patient are stopped. This is done so that the surgeon has a still field to work on. It is during this time the perfusionist along with the heart lung machine takes over the patient’s circulation and respiration. This is refereed to as extra–corporeal circulation (E.C.C), which is an artificial organ function of the blood. (AACP) The perfusionist must monitor the changing circulatory process along with keeping the surgeon and anesthesiologist updated on the patient’s condition. After the surgery, the perfusionist must provide support to the patients circulation until everything is regulated at which point the patient can be removed from the heart lung machine.
Working conditions consist of clean and sterile environment of the surgery suite.The perfusionist must be physically capable of enduring long periods of boredom with brief period’s pure excitement.One must also be able to communicate well with others.Also there is many safety precautions that must be taken to so that the patients blood is not contaminated. (Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network)
A perfusionist will generally work forty-hours a week. This does not include call time, which includes evenings, weekends and holidays. While on call the perfusionist may be called in to do an emergency procedure in the middle of the night, or may have to come in to monitor a patient who has just come out of surgery. This is why a perfusionist must be of the humanitary nature. The perfusionist must also be able to work well with other people, work well under high stress levels and be able to make the proper decisions. Day in and day out the perfusionist makes decisions that effect the patients life with no second chances.
The average starting salary for a perfusionist is $72,800.00 a year. With experience the income moves up $81,000.00. (Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network) There are other ways to improve on the staring salary; one way is by being able to work in other areas of the medical field. Another way to increase ones salary is instead of working for a hospital one could work for an company that is contracted by a Hospital. Opportunities for the perfusionist are ever changing, what was common for the practicing perfusionist ten years ago is no longer the norm and what is the norm today will be outdated tomorrow.
“The definition of a perfusionist by the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary is that of a certified medical technician, responsible for and maintenance of equipment (as a heart-lung machine).”
Merriam- Webster Medical Dictionary, 1995 Edition
“In addition to this requirement, additional fifty independent clinical perfusions must be performed.”
American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion
“The perfusionist does this in order to use the correct disposable and correct pump to meet both the demands of the patient and that of the surgeon.”
Nord, Todd Phone Interview 5 Nov. 2000
“Also there is many safety precautions that must be taken to so that the patients blood is not contaminated.”
Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network