Perfusionists work in the healthcare industry, and use their highly specialized skills to operate heart-lung machines during cardiac surgery. This is a highly demanding job, and perfusionists are required to take care of the patient on cardiac bypass, monitoring their vital signs and metabolic rates, so that the surgeon can focus on the surgery and can perform that surgery on an unmoving heart.
Perfusionists may assist on any number of surgeries, such as (but not limited to):
Heart and lung transplants
Valve repairs and replacements
Surgery to repair aortic trauma
The perfusionist's job is focused on patient care, even though the patient is under anesthesia during the procedure. Perfusionists work with surgeons to select the proper machines and equipment for each patient, using extensive knowledge of the field and each type of equipment and treatment during this selection process.
Perfusionist Job Education Requirements
To become a perfusionist, one must have a four-year college degree with a certain number of biology, anatomy, chemistry and physiology courses completed. After the bachelor's degree, the next step is a master's degree obtained at one of only a handful of accredited schools. The master's degree takes an average of two years to complete, and includes both course work and clinical work. In order to take the exam to become a certified clinical perfusionist, candidates must have worked as a perfusionist on at least 75 cases.
Perfusionist Job Market
Though only a handful of people work as a perfusionist (about 3,700 in the US,) the job market for perfusionists is good, because it is such a highly specialized field. As the population ages, heart disease becomes more common, meaning the need for perfusionists will increase. Also, as medical technology advances and more surgeries outside the realm of the strictly cardiovascular involve bypass, more perfusionists will be hired. After gaining experienced, perfusionists can go on to do research or teach in areas with perfusionist programs, like Arizona or New York. Perfusionists work closely with surgeons and registered nurses.
Perfusionist Job Salary Information
Perfusionists earn anywhere from $65,000 a year to $135,000 a year. Clinical certification and experience increase the likelihood of a perfusionist earning a higher salary. According to the Houston Chronicle, perfusionists who work in pediatrics earn, on average, a higher salary, $116,321 per year, as compared with the average salary for perfusionists who only work on adults, which is $108,355. Perfusionists may need to work nights or weekends, or be on-call during certain off hours.