What does a Cardiac Physiologist do? 

Roles within Cardiac Physiology.

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What roles do Cardiac Physiologists perform in New Zealand?

Cath Lab

While working in a team of Nurses, Doctors and technical staff, Physiologists monitor patient hemodynamic during invasive cardiac procedures and run tests such as Fractional Flow Reserve (FFR). Physiologists are involved in 24/7 emergency responses to STEMI's, IABP insertions and temporary pacing wires among others.

Exercise Tolerance Testing

Exercise Tolerance Testing is one of the earliest procedures you will learn as a Physiologist. These tests are typically done on patients with suspected coronary disease. The test involves working with a nurse / other staff, placing an ECG on a patient and exercising them. While exercising you must monitor their ECG and blood pressure, looking for signs of ischemia or arrhythmia.

Pacemaker & ICD Implants

Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) are regularly implanted in New Zealand Hospitals. Physiologists work with the implanting doctor to program and test the devices while the patient is on the table. At times these may be done with rep support from the device company.

Holter Reporting

Holter monitors are continuous ECG recording devices that are fitted to patients for extended periods of time. Typically 24-48 hours. Physiologists analyse the recording and generate a report. They look for ECG abnormalities such as heart block or arrhythmia and correlate these with patient symptoms.

Pacemaker Follow-up

Once a patient has received a Pacemaker or ICD they require ongoing follow-up. Physiologists see patients in clinic, and through online home-monitoring. They make changes to devices which extend battery life, troubleshoot, and improve a patients symptoms.

Electrophysiology Studies

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WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CARDIAC PHYSIOLOGIST LOOK LIKE?

Over the course of a week you will be invovled in many procedures; no two days are the same. On a single day you may be involved with implanting pacemakers before lunch followed by coronary angiography in the afternoon. The next day may involve checking home-monitoring websites and contacting patients regarding device follow-up, then working 

WHAT IS THE WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?

WHAT OTHER PROFESSIONS DO YOU WORK WITH?

Cardiac Physiologists work in conjunction with several other fields. During coronary or valvular procedures you will commonly work with Doctors, Nurses and Radiographers. In some situations you will work alongside Anaesthetics, Intensive Care, Emergency Department and other technical staff. The combination of people you work with depends on the patients conditon, and the procedure they are undergoing.

WHAT IS THE TRAINING LIKE?

After completing a relevant undergraduate degree you will need to undertake the first year of the Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Technology (The PGCert) through The University of Otago. During (or after completing) this year you will need to obtain a Trainee Cardiac Physiologist position. These are paid, full-time training positions. 

 

The position is two years, the first year will focus on learning the basics (ECG's, Holter/Event Monitors and ETT's) and culminates with sitting Certificate in Physiological Measurement (CPM) exam. The work ramps up in the second year as you progress to working in the Catheterisation Lab, Pacemaker Implant Lab and Holter Analysis. At the end of second year you will sit the Certification of Cardiac Physiologists (CCP) exam while simultaneously completing the PGDip in Medical Technology through University of Otago. 

WHAT SKILLS / ATTRIBUTES ARE BENEFICIAL WHEN BECOMING A CARDIAC PHYSIOLOGIST?

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I WANT TO WORK IN NZ. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?

After completing a Bachelors degree with a strong focus on physiology you must complete a 2-year post-graduate qualification (PGDip). This includes a medical technical certificate, leading to a diploma (placement needed for diploma year). These are through The University of Otago and can be found by searching for MTEC. 
Once in a training position, you will also complete the Certification of Cardiac Physiologists (CCP).

WHAT OTHER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE?

A Cardiac Physiologist is always learning. They can specialise in cardiac devices, electrophysiology or sonography. Further qualifications in these specialties are encouraged and supported. The SCT now offers a device course to prepare you for further exams.
Industry support learning with educational meetings and symposiums.