A perfusionist is a skilled, allied health professional, trained and educated specifically as a member of an open-heart, surgical team responsible for the selection, setup, and operation of a mechanical device commonly referred to as the heart-lung machine. During many types of open heart surgery, the patient's heart is stopped so that it is easier for the surgeon to work on. The patient's blood is diverted away from the heart and lungs into a heart-lung machine. The heart-lung machine takes blood out of the body, oxygenates the blood and then returns the blood to the patient. In effect, the machine assumes the function of both the heart and the lungs. The perfusionist is responsible for operating the machine during surgery, monitoring the altered circulatory process closely, taking appropriate corrective action when abnormal situations arise and keeping both the surgeon and the anesthesiologist fully informed. In addition to the operation of the heart-lung machine during surgery, perfusionists often function in supportive roles for other medical specialties in operating mechanical devices to assist in the conservation of blood and blood products during surgery, and provide extended, long-term support of the patient's circulation outside of the operating room environment. The exact duties and responsibilities of a perfusionist are often dependent upon the particular institution where an individual works.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best major for Perfusion School preparation?
Schools do not require a particular major. Biology, Chemistry or Physics provide a good background for this area. If you wish to major in Biology then you need to look at the individual school requirements before choosing a degree tract. The Medical Sciences degree tract will satisfy all Perfusion program prerequisites if you also take a year of calculus.
Where can I train to be a perfusionist?
Go to the Perfusion Programs webpage for a complete listing of perfusion training programs.
What are the requirements for perfusionist school?
The requirement vary greatly among training programs. Some schools require a BA or BS degree. Some do not. Biology, chemistry and physics are a requirement for most programs. Some programs also require organic chemistry and 1 year of calculus. Check individual schools for specific requirements.
Are perfusionist schools degree programs?
Not all perfusionist schools are degree programs; being certified is the only requirement for employment as a perfusionist.
How long is a perfusionist program?
Most programs are 24 months.
What do perfusionists earn?
In 1998 the starting salaries ranged from $45,000-$65,000.