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The cardiovascular perfusionist operates extracorporeal circulation equipment during any medical procedure in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient's circulatory or respiratory functions, such as in open-heart surgery or other heart procedures. Perfusionists routinely administer various types of blood products and medications and control the temperature of patients during surgery.
Perfusionists, in conjunction with attending physicians, are responsible for the selection of the most appropriate equipment and extracorporeal techniques. They are trained on providing the best level of care during open-heart surgery.
Perfusionists may also perform administrative duties, such as equipment and supply purchasing, department management, and quality improvement. They must handle very stressful situations, pay close attention to detail, and stay abreast of new research and education in their profession.
According to the American Society of ExtraCorporeal Technology, the job openings for perfusionists in the United States are increasing due to the growing number of people age 65 and older who are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and require open-heart surgery.
In addition, new procedures for many types of heart disease, defects and disorders are increasing the need for cardiovascular perfusion services.
Employment of perfusionists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations as the volume of cardiac surgery increases. The number of surgical procedures is expected to rise as the population grows and ages. Hospitals and large surgical centers are the primary employers of perfusionists.
With additional training and experience, some perfusionists become administrators, educators, researchers and developers for product manufacturers or move into marketing and sales.
Median annual earnings of certified clinical perfusionists in 2012 were $109,773, according to perfusionistsalary.org.