Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX –
As a Navy cardiovascular technician, or CVT, I am one of the
most highly specialized, medically trained enlisted professionals in the Navy.
The training I deliver at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint
Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is one of a kind.
In a matter of just 13 months, students graduate with the
knowledge and skills to function in a specialized field. Our students learn
both invasive and noninvasive aspects of cardiology. Our civilian counterparts
have two-year associate’s degree programs, but their students are only trained
on either non-invasive or invasive cardiology. Navy CVTs are trained to do
As a CVT, I work under the direction of a cardiologist
assisting with cardiac emergencies and examination studies in both diagnostic
and invasive settings, so it’s no secret that the training is quite demanding.
The METC CVT program is an intensive program consisting of
five months of didactic Phase 1 training at the METC, followed by eight months
of clinical training at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Throughout this time, students receive training in anatomy
and physiology, physics, echocardiography, advanced cardiac life support,
electrophysiology and cardiac catheterization. Students are also trained to
perform exercise stress testing, electrocardiograms and interpretation of the
heart’s rhythm. These tools allow CVTs to assist the cardiologist in diagnosis
and treatment of cardiac disease before it becomes life threatening.
After six years as a CVT, I am proficient in recognizing
cardiac rhythm disturbances that could indicate a life-threatening medical
condition. Using sound waves, I am able to perform cardiac ultrasounds to
visualize the heart, which provides the cardiologist with valuable information
regarding the heart’s structure and motion.
Standing side-by-side with an invasive cardiologist, I am
able to assist with invasive diagnostic cardiac catheterization procedures that
look for blockages in the coronary arteries, and if found, I play an integral
part in the interventional procedure using balloons and stents to reopen the
Through mapping of the heart’s electrical conduction system,
the electrophysiology study will find rhythm abnormalities and correct them
with specialized cardiac ablation procedures including implanting pacemakers
where applicable. This specialty requires me to have a cool head and the
ability to think and act quickly in critical situations.
Along with the five months of didactic training, CVT
students work with some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the
cardiovascular field. The program employs two state-of-the-art Laerdal SimMan
3G Advanced Cardiac Life Support simulators that are utilized during the ACLS
and patient assessment portion of the curriculum.
The two simulators provide a tangible hands-on link between didactic
lessons learned in pharmacology and patient assessment. It allows students to
effectively practice CVT skills in a training environment.
Having this level of simulator technology allows students to
learn all the different modalities of cardiovascular training that they
experience throughout the course and will be exposed to upon graduation. In
previous years there was no way to illustrate some of the things that a CVT
will see out in the real world, like patient reaction in real time and how to
treat and anticipate possible complications.
The most impressive simulation capability is during the
cardiac catheterization rotation. There is a fully functional cardiac
catheterization suite that allows students to practice positioning the x-ray
equipment, safe patient transfer procedures, and setting up and maintaining a
sterile field. It is fully stocked with the same diagnostic and interventional equipment
that is used during real clinical rotations.
In addition to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, the
program utilizes a Simbionix Angio-Mentor to teach invasive skills.
Students use the simulator to combine all the didactic and
clinical hands on invasive techniques learned throughout the curriculum. The
Angio-Mentor provides experience with basic and advanced guide wire and
catheter skills, familiarity with endovascular procedures, and catherization
lab team experience. Students learn how to manipulate catheters, inflate
balloons and stents, and respond to complications associated with all the
The simulator tracks X-ray exposure, contrast administration
and reacts to the procedure in real time. Other skills learned include how to
operate the C-arm, patient’s table, and fluoroscopic screen, as well as how to
read the hemodynamic monitoring and administer medications.
The simulator offers hands-on training that is designed to
enhance manual dexterity and improve appropriate instrument decision making. I
was able to feel the high-end sensation that provides realistic simulation of
guide wire, balloon, stent and other interventional devices.
The program also conducts team training exercises to build
confidence and help students understand the requirements of all the catheter
lab team members. Patient safety is the primary focus of the vast curricula,
and validation studies have reinforced the value of simulators in professional
Recently, our program director underwent one of the
procedures the students learn about in the program. He had an atrial
fibrillation ablation, where the cardiologist mapped the electrical conduction
system of the heart to see where the abnormal impulses were coming from. Once
the doctor knew the location he used a catheter to deliver extremely cold
energy to that area, destroying the tissue to restore normal heart rhythm.
However, seeing this as an opportunity for more learning,
the program director invited his students to observe the procedure so they
could see firsthand what they will be expected to do after they graduate. In
addition, the staff where the procedure was conducted included two
cardiovascular technicians who were trained at METC by him.
Stories like these are the reason we take great pride in our
field and why we are so dedicated to providing the highest quality training
using the most advanced, cutting edge technology to produce the world’s finest
(Source: Navy Medicine Live blog, http://navymedicine.navylive.dodlive.mil)