Earning a cardiology degree can qualify you for employment in a range of medical positions. The work done by cardiovascular specialists of all types helps patients and researchers better understand and care for the human heart and treat appropriately a wide range of heart conditions. Each member of the cardiological team has a particular role to play in realizing these goals. Here are seven typical specialties you can explore with a cardiology degree.
General cardiologists specialize in the diagnosis of problems with the heart and lungs, non-surgical treatment of those problems, and the development of preventative measures to avoid or minimize potential heart or lung problems in the future. They often work in private practice or as staff members of a larger care team at a medical clinic. The tools used by general cardiologists include standard physical exams, angiograms, stress tests, and echocardiograms, and their course of treatment often includes medications, simple catheterization, and dietary and exercise programs. Becoming licensed as a general cardiologist requires a medical school degree, three-year residency, and three-year fellowship in cardiovascular medicine.
Interventional cardiologists usually work in practices that specialize in cardiac care or on the staff of hospitals and they concentrate on more problematic underlying conditions that the testing and care regimens of general cardiologists cannot remediate. Many of the problems addressed by interventional cardiologists stem from structural issues in the heart, congenital abnormalities, or cardiovascular diseases.
The procedures used by interventional cardiologists are more intrusive than those used by general cardiologists but fall short of full surgery; they often include angioplasty and balloon angioplasty, stenting, percutaneous procedures, coronary thrombectomy, and complex catheterization. To become an Ohio interventional cardiologist, you must complete the same course of study, residency, and fellowship as a general cardiologist, as well as an additional year of qualified interventional cardiovascular study.
As the job title suggests, pediatric cardiologists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart conditions in children. This is a broad field, however, because heart conditions in a new-born, or even prenatal patient, can be radically different from those in a teenager. A pediatric cardiologist must be prepared for issues across that entire age spectrum. Many of the conditions that a pediatric cardiologist confronts include cardiomyopathy, heart murmurs, narrowing aortas, heart valve defects, and blood clots.
Most pediatric cardiologists work on a care team and must be qualified to perform cardiac surgery if needed. Following the same course of study and residency pursued by general cardiologists, pediatric cardiologists must also complete a three-year fellowship in pediatric cardiology and typically two additional years in a fellowship for a secondary specialization (most pediatric cardiologists choose a secondary specialization in congenital heart disease, heart catheterization, heart transplants, or advanced imaging).
Patients whose heart condition cannot be treated using the general cardiologist’s or interventional cardiologist’s methods will likely need to see a cardiovascular surgeon. By the time a patient reaches this stage, their condition is almost always complex and life-threatening. Cardiovascular surgeons perform a range of different complicated surgical procedures to treat intricate or deep problems inside or surrounding the heart.
These procedures often include coronary artery bypass, aneurysm repair, defect repair, valve replacement, and heart transplantation. Most cardiovascular surgeons work in a hospital setting, though some are also employed by cardiac specialist practices. Becoming qualified as a cardiovascular surgeon is a lengthy and difficult process, encompassing medical school, three years of residency, three years of fellowship, and often up to five additional years of specialized training prior to licensure.
A cardiothoracic surgeon undertakes similar complex heart-related surgeries as a cardiovascular surgeon, but his or her focus is a bit broader and encompasses also conditions related to the lungs and esophagus as well. Almost all cardiothoracic surgeons work in hospital settings where they frequently perform operations to remediate atrial or ventricular septal defects and diseases related to the mitral or aortic valve or the coronary artery. Cardiothoracic surgeons are typically the specialists who perform heart or lung transplants.
The procedures performed by cardiothoracic surgeons tend to be complex, difficult, and high stakes. To become a cardiothoracic surgeon, you need to complete the standard four years of medical school and a five-year general surgery residency followed by three years of cardiothoracic surgical residency. Most cardiothoracic surgeons complete an additional four years of fellowships and specialized training prior to seeking licensure.
Clinical Cardiac Perfusionist
The clinical cardiac perfusionist is a specialized member of the cardiac surgery team, particularly for heart bypass procedures and arterial grafting surgeries. During these and similar heart operations, the perfusionist is responsible for stopping the heart so the cardiovascular surgeon or cardiothoracic surgeon can perform the required repairs. During the operation, the perfusionist assists with monitoring the heart and circulation to ensure the patient in good condition, and after the operation is complete, the perfusionist assists with restarting the heart and monitoring its performance.
In addition to using their technique as a member of cardiac surgical teams, perfusionists conduct similar work to assist the recovery of victims of traumatic cardiac events such as drowning or hypothermia. Most perfusionists work in intensive care facilities, hospitals, and catheterization laboratories. Becoming a perfusionist requires specialized training, typically encompassing two years of qualified clinical experience following the degree.
The cardiovascular technologist or technician is an essential member of the cardiac care team, particularly in the event of cardiological surgery. The primary role of the cardiovascular technologist is to carry out the tests used by the cardiac care team to diagnose heart conditions and monitor care during treatment or surgery. Some of the routine tests performed by cardiovascular technologists include electrophysiology studies, electrocardiograms, electrocardiographs, echocardiograms, blood pressure monitoring, and, on occasion, myocardial perfusion scans and coronary angiographies. To become a cardiovascular technologist, you will need to earn a degree in cardiovascular technology and, in some states, obtain additional licenses and certifications that may require further training.