Medical Perfusionist

Medical Perfusionist

Medical Perfusionist

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor’s

Top 3 Skills: Focus, Communication, Working Under Pressure

Average Starting Salary: $45,000/year

Job Description

Whenever a patient’s heart must be stopped — say, during open heart surgery — a machine is used to keep the patient’s blood flowing. Without such a machine, the arrest of blood circulation could lead to tissue death and/or brain damage. A medical perfusionist attaches, monitors, and controls the equipment necessary to keep the patient alive and well.

Cardiac surgeries can be extensive, taking multiple hours to complete at times. The perfusionist must be able to concentrate on the patient’s stats and condition the entire time. They must also know what to do should anything go wrong. While a medical perfusionist is not highly involved with (conscious) patients, it is important that they communicate to the doctors, nurses, and other OR staff throughout a procedure. They must be able to keep calm in high-pressure situations.

Most medical perfusionists adhere to the traditional 40-hour work week, but some will be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays, particularly at hospitals specializing in cardiac surgery.


According to the American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion, (AACP), an effective training program for cardiac perfusion requires a bachelor’s degree (four years of college). There does not appear to be any specific type of undergraduate degree required, but a biology or science degree of some sort would be most conducive to this field.

A prospective perfusionist must also complete a training program that is affiliated with an academic medical center, requiring completion of a minimum of 150 procedures as a trainee. After completing the course, one must successfully pass a certification exam to become a Certified Clinical Perfusionist. This exam is offered by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP).

Be sure to find a program that includes clinical training and certification preparation as a part of the curriculum. Students will study a variety of subjects, with specific classes on perfusion and the cardiovascular system.

If you’ve enjoyed Biology and/or Anatomy and Physiology, then you will likely enjoy the courses involved in a Medical Perfusion degree. If you’d rather not deal with blood, needles, tubing, and exposed organs, then perfusion is probably not the best fit for you


The American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion administers a two part exam, which all prospective perfusionists must pass to obtain their license.

Job Outlook: Excellent

The average medical perfusionist makes $65,000 per year. As the American population ages, more medical perfusionists will be needed to assist with cardiac surgeries (more common among the middle aged and elderly).

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