Operate the machine that acts as a substitute for the heart during surgery.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$26,000 – $65,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Perfusionists do?

To stay alive during heart surgery, a patient needs to keep oxygenated blood pumping through their body. They need a metal heart to take over the role until the surgery is finished and the real thing can get back to work.

A Perfusionist is the person who knows everything about this metal heart. Perfusionists work on a cardiac surgical team, and their sole responsibility is to keep oxygen-filled blood circulating through the patient’s body.

The machine you work with as a Perfusionist is the aptly named heart-lung machine. It monitors carbon dioxide levels, regulates blood chemistry, and maintains the pH balance.

During surgery, yours is a support role. You keep an eye on the information the machine gathers, and lets the others on the team know if a problem develops. You’re also the one who stops the heart and hooks up the machine. This gives the Surgeon in charge a still heart to work on, and lets them concentrate on the job at hand while you focus on keeping the patient alive.

Not all heart stoppage is good during surgery, and if something goes wrong, you need to be able to jump in quickly to solve the problem. Since even a few minutes without blood can prove deadly, you need to be fast-acting, quick-thinking, and able to control situations.

At the end of surgery, you remove your machine and start the heart working again. During recovery, you keep an eye on the patient’s circulatory system to make sure everything is healing as it should, especially if a device has been inserted to help them recover.

Should I be a Perfusionist?

You should have an associate's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Helpful: You always keep an eye out for what other people need.

  • How to become a Perfusionist

    We recommend at least an Associate's degree. Check out these schools offering Perfusionist-related education!
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