Last Updated:
April 27, 2023

Job Description Overview

A Perfusionist job description involves working in the healthcare industry as a highly skilled member of the surgical team. Perfusionists are responsible for ensuring a patient's blood circulation during surgical procedures. They operate and monitor the heart-lung machine that takes over the circulatory and respiratory functions of the patient during open-heart procedures. They also provide support with other procedures, including heart and lung transplantation, ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for critically ill patients. 

Perfusionists work under the direction of a surgeon and other medical professionals, including anesthesiologists and nurses, to assess the patient's physiological status during the operation. They must be able to monitor a patient's vital signs and adjust the heart-lung machine and medications as needed. Perfusionists also play a vital role in ensuring the safety of these patients by ensuring proper blood flow and oxygenation. 

To become a Perfusionist, you'll need a bachelor's degree in perfusion science and certification from the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Work in this field requires attention to detail, excellent communication, and the ability to work well in high-pressure environments. If you value teamwork and enjoy being an important part of a surgical team, a job as a Perfusionist might be the perfect fit for you!

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Job Duties and Responsibilities

  • A perfusionist is a healthcare professional who operates the cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) machine used during cardiovascular surgeries.
  • They monitor the patient's blood flow, oxygen levels, and vital signs during surgical procedures to ensure optimal patient safety.
  • Perfusionists work closely with the surgical team, including the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses, to provide the best care possible for the patient.
  • They are responsible for assessing the patient's needs, selecting appropriate equipment, and preparing the patient for surgery.
  • During the procedure, they manage and manipulate the blood flow and oxygen levels, analyzing and adjusting them as necessary.
  • Perfusionists also administer medications and blood products as needed to maintain the patient's hemodynamic stability.
  • They are responsible for maintaining the CPB equipment, including cleaning and sterilization procedures.
  • After the procedure, they assist with the patient's transition to the intensive care unit and ensure that the patient is stable and comfortable.
  • Perfusionists must stay up-to-date with new technologies and techniques in the field to provide the best care possible.
  • They are dedicated to improving patient outcomes and providing compassionate care to their patients and families.

Experience and Education Requirements

To become a perfusionist in the healthcare industry, you need a combination of education and experience. Most perfusionists have a bachelor's degree in a healthcare-related field like biology or nursing. But some programs also offer a master's degree option.

Additionally, you'll need experience in a related field like nursing or respiratory therapy. This experience will prepare you for the rigors of the perfusionist job, including the need for quick decision making and a deep understanding of physiology and patient care.

But education and experience aren't enough. You'll also need to complete a rigorous certification process. This process typically involves passing a national certification exam and meeting ongoing continuing education requirements to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field.

Salary Range

Perfusionists are highly skilled healthcare professionals who work in operating rooms alongside surgeons and anesthesiologists. They are responsible for operating the heart-lung machines that keep patients alive during open-heart surgeries, lung transplants, and other complex medical procedures. If you're wondering about the Perfusionist salary range, it varies by location, experience, and specialization. In the United States, the average salary for a Perfusionist is around $115,000 per year. However, salaries can range from $70,000 to over $150,000 depending on the state and healthcare facility. In Canada, the average salary for a Perfusionist is around CAD 125,000 per year. Sources: (1), (2), (3)

Career Outlook

The career outlook for Perfusionists in the healthcare industry over the next five years looks positive with steady growth projected. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including Perfusionists, is expected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. 

The demand for Perfusionists is driven by the aging population who will require heart surgeries and treatments. Additionally, advances in technology are creating new opportunities for Perfusionists to apply their skills in areas such as organ preservation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support. 

Overall, Perfusionists can expect a stable and rewarding career path in the healthcare industry, making a valuable contribution to patient outcomes and improving people's quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is a Perfusionist?

A: A Perfusionist is a healthcare professional who operates the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgeries to artificially support and maintain a patient's circulation and respiration.

Q: What does a Perfusionist do during a surgery?

A: A Perfusionist is responsible for monitoring the patient's vital signs, managing the flow of blood through the heart-lung machine, maintaining the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes, and providing oxygen to the patient's blood.

Q: What skills are required to be a Perfusionist?

A: To become a Perfusionist, you must have a strong foundation in math and science, as well as excellent hand-eye coordination, communication skills and the ability to work well under pressure.

Q: What is the educational requirement to become a Perfusionist?

A: A Bachelor's degree in a related field, such as biology or physiology, is required to become a Perfusionist. Additionally, a two-year perfusionist program that includes clinical experience and certification by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion is mandatory.

Q: What are the job prospects for a Perfusionist?

A: The outlook for perfusionists is good with a projected job growth rate of 21% from 2018 to 2028. As healthcare technology continues to advance and the population grows, the need for perfusionists is expected to increase.

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