While most people consider chest pain the number one sign of a heart attack or cardiovascular issue, for many women, other symptoms show up first, like neck, shoulder or back pain, trouble breathing and sweating. Women are more likely than men to have signs other than chest pain during a heart attack, making them more likely to delay treatment. Thanks to the work of cardiology technicians, however, women may receive earlier diagnoses and can take steps to prevent heart attacks.
Cardiovascular Credentialing International
Not every employer requires cardiology technicians to earn a designation, but most prefer to hire those with certification. Certification shows the tech has gone above and beyond to gain knowledge and skills in the field. Cardiovascular Credentialing International sponsors the preferred certification program for cardiology technicians, the Certified Cardiographic Technician designation. Accredited by the American National Standards Institute, CCI also offers continuing education courses for cardiovascular professionals.
Not just anyone can apply for and earn the CCT designation. Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements including a high school diploma or the equivalent and meeting one of four prerequisites. Prerequisites include graduating from a cardiovascular or allied health educational degree program; being currently employed in cardiovascular technology; holding a bachelor’s degree in a health or science field; or having two years of volunteer service in cardiovascular technology and two years of full-time technical work in cardiology. Along with meeting one of the four requirements, applicants must provide documentation such as a degree certificate, transcripts, and employment and student verification documents.
Once the applicant meets the eligibility requirements, she can hit the books and take the certification exam. The exam covers topics like cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, ECG techniques, cardiovascular electrophysiology, stress test techniques and cardiac medications. CCI assists students in preparing for the exam by providing sample test questions, references and a list of all topics covered on the exam. Students taking the exam do not have to wait weeks with baited breath to learn whether they passed or not. Pearson testing centers, that proctor the 130 multiple-choice question exam, provides immediate results to test-takers.
A certification holder must stay on top of her designation by renewing one year after she is initially awarded the certification and then every three years after that. Renewal requires paying a fee, signing the CCI Code of Ethics policy and submitting at least 16 hours of continuing education credits. CE credits can come from taking online and in-person courses, attending industry-related conferences and seminars and participating in activities sponsored by cardiovascular organizations, such as the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals and the American Heart Association.
While most cardiology technician programs prepare students to earn certification from CCI, several other specialty designations for cardiology technicians also exist. The National Center for Competency Testing and National Healthcareer Association both offer an ECG/EKG Technician designation for cardio techs who want to specialize in ECGs. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography features specialty certifications in adult, pediatric and fetal echocardiography, as well as a vascular technology designation for techs concentrating in those areas. Earning a specialty certification follows the same path as general certification; students fulfill certain requirements and take a certification exam.
- Mayo Clinic: Heart Disease in Women
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International: Certified Cardiographic Technician
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International: Exam Application and Overview
- Cardiovascular Credentialing International: Credential Renewal Process
- National Center for Competency Testing: Certifications
- American Registry for Diagnostic Sonography: Certifications
- National Healthcareer Association: EKG Technician Certification
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images