Hyperbaric chambers were originally designed to help divers who had decompression issues such as the bends. Technicians who could operate the chambers were often diving experts rather than medical professionals. In the 1960s medical facilities began to use chambers for other conditions that could benefit from both elective and emergency hyperbaric oxygen treatments such as embolisms, infections, burns, skin grafts, wounds and some cancers. It is now common for health care professionals to train as operators or technicians in hospitals and other facilities.
Hyperbaric technicians, also known as certified hyperbaric technologists or CHTs, take on clinical and technical roles. You administer chamber treatments to patients with various conditions, working in tandem with physicians and medical teams. In addition to clinical care and patient management, the job also has technical responsibilities -- you are responsible for basic and emergency safety, and the maintenance of the chamber and its systems. Some facilities are also involved in research projects.
The first step to becoming a CHT is to complete an introductory course accredited by the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology. You then take on a clinical work experience internship, which involves 480 hours of training in hyperbaric medicine, undersea or aviation medicine technology. During this time, you learn about hyperbaric clinical care, the way the chamber works and safety protocols. Education is ongoing -- you need 12 additional credits every two years, half of which must be in the hyperbaric field. Certification lasts for two years and recertification is dependent on your credits and evidence of continued work experience.
Skills and Qualifications
Your basic educational requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. This is not typically an entry-level job, and most people looking to train will already have a health care qualification. According to the NBDHMT, training is often undertaken by EMTs and paramedics, nurses and CNAs, physicians, respiratory therapists, military corpsmen and diver medics. The role requires clinical care abilities and good communication skills as you will be dealing with patients. You also need an aptitude for natural sciences and the practical ability to master and manage technical systems.
Many people train in the hospitals or the medical facilities in which they work. Some facilities run in-house training; others buy in services from external providers. The initial training course is also available from various training companies, dive centers and specialist hyperbaric companies. As NBDHMT certification requires a practical internship, technicians seeking certification typically already work in a hyperbaric center or have a job or internship lined up. Your facility also needs to employ a Certified Hyperbaric Registered Nurse with at least two years' experience -- 40 out of your 480 intern hours must be supervised by a certified specialist.
- National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology: Certified Hyperbaric Technologist Training and Certification
- Alert Diver: Working Under Pressure: Certified Hyperbaric Technician - See more at: http://www.alertdiver.com/default.aspx?articleNo=493#sthash.ufQ1eTlu.dpuf
- National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology: Resource Manual
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
- Medline Plus: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
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