The Career For You?

What is a Perfusionist

A perfusionist is a specialized health professional who operates the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass.

In addition to having excellent decision-making and oral-communication skills, perfusionists must be knowledgeable about heart devices such as electrical pacemakers and defibrillators.

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A June 2010 salary report says that the average salary for a perfusionist in the United States is $77,000 per year. Salaries for this role vary based on factors such as geographic location. Ex: New York City earn $91,000 per year.

Work Environment and Settings

  • Perfusionists must be emotionally stable, as they work in a highly stressful and volatile environment. Since their patients tend to be critically ill and require immediate medical attention, they must be ready for unexpected changes in vital signs, breathing patterns and heart rates. Perfusionists typically work 40 hours per week; however, weekend and evening hours are common. They may be on call in case of an emergency or immediate open-heart surgery.

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Training and Schooling

Perfusionists are required to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or certificate in perfusion science depending on their position’s requirements. During a perfusionist program, students learn how to operate heart-lung machines and other perfusionist devices on live animals. Students also learn the latest perfusionist technologies and trends.