I feel very fortunate to have discovered the profession of Cardiac Physiology; and it was quite by accident. After completing my BSc and MSc in Cardiac Physiology and my national accreditation in Echocardiography (nearly three-years ago) I have been working as a Cardiac Physiologist here at the Trust.
I’m based in the Cardiology Department on level 6, but frequently venture out the wards to perform portable echocardiograms, attach ambulatory heart monitors and check pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) when the patient is too unwell to come to us. I also occasionally head to the Cath Lab, to assist in device implants, angioplasties and TAVIs (Trans-catheter AV insertion).
Although the profession of Cardiac Physiology may seem very niche, it is a very varied and specialist career which benefits from working in an MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) environment and also as an independent practitioner performing, interpreting and reporting diagnostic investigations such as Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator interrogation, with re-programming when required, and echocardiography.
24 hours in Cardiac Physiology
Within this period, I could spend a morning performing echocardiograms on acutely unwell patients on ITU, occasionally peri-opertively and in the peri-arrest setting, or performing complex echocardiography of patients with congenital heart disease or stress testing.
In the afternoon, I might form part of a MDT consisting of a cardiologist, radiographers, nurses and GSAs performing a list of angiography or angioplasty and, at any moment, have a phone call that a PPCI (Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) to be performed during an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) is on its way. At which point we swiftly complete or halt the procedure of the current patient, safely clear the Cath Lab and set up for the PPCI. The patient will arrive straight to the Cath Lab, without even pausing in ED, and within 150 minutes of the patient calling for help (999) the patient will not only be in the hospital, but the blocked artery causing the heart attack will be opened, restoring blood flow to the heart muscle once more.
As a department we cover 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. So, at 17:00 when my shift ends, it doesn’t mean I’m finished for the day as at least once a week I’m on call. Emergencies and call-outs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes including, but not limited to, patients having heart attacks, their hearts stopping requiring emergency pacemakers, ICDs firing and giving patients appropriate or inappropriate shocks and emergency echocardiography e.g. does the patient have fluid or collection around the heart require them to go back to theatre? …and by 09:00 it’s back to the ‘routine day again’.
I love the variety my career gives. The challenges of complex patients, the deciphering of difficult diagnostics at 03:00 that no one else in the trust at that time knows how to.
I love the patients I meet and feel privileged to be part of their journey. Whether it’s an annual pacemaker follow-up to give reassurance, or performing the echo on ITU that discovers why the patient is so unwell, and how to guide treatment to save their lives.
I enjoy the freedom and challenge of working as a solo practitioner, but also the camaraderie of working in a team.
Vicky is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Cardiology, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.