PeHow to Become a Perfusionistrfusionists are skilled allied health professionals who operate special equipment that substitutes for the body's own circulation system. They are surgical team members whose responsibility includes choosing, setting up, and operating extracorporeal (meaning "outside the body") devices, known informally as "heart-lung machines". Heart-lung machines essentially take over for the patient's own heart and lungs, oxygenating the blood and pumping it throughout the body.

Perfusionists mainly work in operating rooms, but may also work in patient rooms providing long-term circulation support. Although most cardiac surgeries are performed during normal business hours, perfusionists find themselves working all hours of night and day and must be on call at times.

According to the American Society of Extra-Corporeal Technology (AmSECT), perfusionists make $60,000 to $75,000 after graduation, and can earn more than $100,000 with several years of experience and increased responsibility. AmSECT says there are about 3,700 perfusionists working in the United States.

If you are a bright, energetic person, enjoy helping people, have a technical aptitude, and want a challenging, financially rewarding career in medicine (but don't want to become a doctor or nurse) you may want to become a perfusionist.

Things You Will Need

* Aptitude for working with technology
* Interest in medicine.

Step 1

Decide if this is the right career path for you. Becoming a perfusionist requires a serious commitment, since considerable training is required. Perfusionists work in operating rooms, with blood. They work long and varied hours, so if you are the type of person who needs a set schedule, you may not want to become a perfusionist. You may want to seek the advice of a career counselor before committing yourself to the time and expense of training. Check out websites devoted to perfusion.

Step 2

Get trained. Once you are certain you want to become a perfusionist, find an educational program. There are 21 schools in the United States that train future perfusionists. The programs vary in length and degree offered. Some programs are post-baccalaureate, meaning the student must already have a bachelor's degree, but this is not a uniform requirement. Make sure your program is accredited by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP).

Step 3

Get certified. Most employers mandate that candidates be Certified Clinical Perfusionists (CCP). To become certified, take the certification exam from the ABCP.

Step 4

Continue your training. To remain certified, you will have to take a certain amount of continuing education credits, and remain active as a perfusionist.

Tips & Warnings