A cardiac physiologist works in the cardiology department of hospitals looking after patients with existing heart problems or suspected heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol. They carry out blood pressure measurement tests, echocardiograms (ECGs) and tilt-table tests. They may also check pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs).
A qualified cardiac physiologist could run a chest pain clinic, run and analyse tests on heart patients and write reports for doctors.
Typical work activities for a cardiac physiologist include:
- using ultrasound to carry out an echocardiogram
- helping with pacemaker implantation and following up its function and programming
- monitoring patients during exercise stress tests
- taking blood pressure measurements
- providing technical reports for doctors.
Cardiac physiologists can work in research and education, but most are dealing with patients with heart problems in clinics, hospitals and at GP practices. They help patients to understand and manage their conditions, and work with anaesthetists, surgeons, cardiologists, specialist nurses and radiographers. Cardiac physiologists are eligible to join the Society for Cardiological Science and Technology (SCST), which runs events and conferences, promotes high quality standards of education and training and promotes cardiac research and the British Cardiovascular Society, which promotes and supports healthcare professionals working in cardiology and cardiovascular health.
A cardiac physiologist tends to work standard hours in a clinic – around 37.5 hours a week – though some may work shifts and others work in research.
Cardiac physiology is an ever-developing profession.
You'll find vacancies advertised on the NHS Jobs website and by healthcare trusts on their own sites. Other jobs may be advertised in national and local newspapers.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for cardiac physiologists
- Excellent communication and good professional manner
- Good at working with teams and individuals
- An interest in science and technology
- Ability to analyse results
- Ability to deal with patients of all ages
- Emotional resilience.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of cardiac physiologists
- The National Health Service (NHS)
- Colleges and universities
- Specialist research units and charities
Qualifications and training required
Students who want to become cardiac physiologists can take an accredited healthcare science (cardiac and vascular physiology) BSc degree at university, which typically combines clinical placements with academic study. You may be accepted to study for a masters degree qualification in clinical science (cardiac, vascular, respiratory and sleep sciences), on the graduate entry NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) if you already have a relevant degree, such as physiology, pure or applied physics, engineering, biology or human biology. If you are an experienced registered clinical scientist, you can apply for higher specialist scientist training (HSST), to gain doctoral level qualifications.
Degree courses with cardiac physiology
Current degree courses in healthcare science BSc with a cardiac physiology element involve the following...
Typical first year units include analysis and presentation of information and data, anatomy and physiology for healthcare, an introduction to cardiovascular physiology plus work place learning for healthcare science. Second year modules may include ambulatory blood pressure and exercise stress testing, and clinical electrocardiology. Third year studies may include diagnosis and management of cardiac diseases and work-based learning plus a major project – either laboratory-based research, or a dissertation.
Once qualified, cardiac physiologists can apply to join the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP) and the Society for Cardiological Science and Technology (SCST).
Applying for a degree course in cardiac physiology
To apply for a typical BSc course, you will need a minimum of five A-C (4 or higher) grade GCSEs or the equivalent, including maths, English and sciences, plus 120 UCAS points from two or more A levels or Scottish Highers including a pass in a science subject (biology is preferred). Other acceptable qualifications include: UCAS points from BTEC level 3 Diplomas or Access to Higher Education Diplomas in science at overall pass grade. Applicants are also interviewed. Other routes on to courses include science foundation years and accreditation for prior learning, qualification and experience. Some universities offer four-year masters level courses.