Cardiac Medical Device Careers

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A Cardiac Medical Device Career

A Career for Life

Career opportunities exist with employers of all sizes, from major healthcare systems to small clinics, large international medical device companies to small and mid-sized startup companies. Career growth opportunities in the cardiac medical device space are broad since clinical and device specialist jobs exist in all medical specialties and with medical device company and healthcare system employers.Working as a cardiac medical device clinical specialist offers the opportunity for a personally satisfying career while making a good living.

Some of the most commonly known career segments in the cardiac medical device space include the areas of clinical specialists, medical device sales and sales management. These professional roles exist in a variety of medical specialities, including Cardiac Rhythm Management, Electrophysiology, Structural Heart, and Interventional Cardiology. Job titles in the cardiac space include field clinical representative, technical sales support representative and EP mapping specialist. In device clinics and healthcare systems, job titles include device technician, Cath lab tech, EP lab tech, and device clinician.

A typical starting point is a clinical specialist role working in CRM devices or EP mapping ablation and cryotherapy. Career advancement opportunities exist in sales, sales management, clinical management, advanced cardiology specialties, or related specialties, such as Cardiac Rhythm Management Devices, Electrophysiology Mapping, Ablation & Cryotherapy, Left Atrial Appendage Closure Devices, Coronary Intervention & Stenting, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Repair, Mitral Valve Clip Devices, Neuromodulation Devices, and Sleep Apnea Devices.

Medical device innovation in the cardiac space means that career moves from one area of specialty to another offers additional career movement. Additionally, career opportunities exist in clinical, engineering, research, sales, marketing, training, and management. The cardiac medical device career space offers a lifetime of opportunities for advancement and change.

Job titles include clinical specialist, device technician, EP technician, field clinical representative, technical service specialist, and EP mapping specialist. Titles and roles vary, depending upon the employer.  A Cardiac Clinical Specialist or Medical Device Specialist must have a deep knowledge of cardiac therapies and products and the associated clinical data. This position requires someone with a strong clinical aptitude who can work in a team environment. The Clinical Specialist supports all areas of cardiac cases including pre-case planning and patient recommended treatments. The Cardiac Clinical Specialist is a trusted advisor and seen as a clinical expert by the treatment team.

A cardiac medical device or clinical specialist provides procedural expertise, patient monitoring, and training and education. The clinical specialist enables the clinical and technical applications of medical devices by performing diagnostic tests during complex cardiac procedures including Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM) device implantations, Interventional Cardiology (IC) and Structural Heart (SH) procedures, and Electrophysiology (EP) mapping and ablation procedures. Duties are performed while a device implant or EP mapping procedure is being performed and in some cases during the post-operative monitoring of patients who have cardiac devices implanted. Additional patient monitoring responsibilities include device checks through in-person and remote monitoring.

What you do: Clinical Specialists may be employed by a hospital or by a medical device company. Employed by a hospital: Cardiac Device Specialists working for a hospital may work in a cardiology clinic seeing patients for device follow-up checks or work in a cardiac cath lab or EP lab providing clinical support during device implantation or EP mapping procedures. Employed by a medical device company: Cardiac Clinical Specialists working for a medical device company balance clinical support and commercial functions in their role. He or she supports device implantation procedures, visits clinics to run diagnostic tests to monitor patient’s devices such as pacemakers and ICDs, and presents technical product information at company meetings and to physicians and clinic staff. Electrophysiology Mapping Specialists support EP procedures such as cardiac ablation by performing 3D mapping of the heart and performing diagnostic tests.

Where You May Work
Cardiac medical device specialists may work directly for manufacturers or within cardiac device clinics or EP/cath labs in hospitals and other health care provider settings. Major global manufacturers of cardiac and EP devices and therapies include Medtronic, Abbott, Boston Scientific, Edwards Lifesciences, Biotronik, LivaNova, Johnson & Johnson, Stereotaxis, and Impulse Dynamics. There are many emerging companies that manufacture unique types of cardiac medical devices including diagnostic and imaging equipment.

CIED Clinical Specialist Positions: Manufacturer-employed cardiac device specialists ensure functionality of devices such as pacemakers and ICDs during implantation and on an ongoing basis throughout the life-time of these devices. Their work schedules are unpredictable, include on-call duty and travel frequently within their geography.

EP Clinical Specialist / Mapping Specialist Positions: Manufacturer-employed EP mapping specialists or clinical specialists guide electrophysiologists by performing complex 3D mapping of the heart. These individuals travel frequently within their geography but typically have a more predictable schedule and limited patient interaction.

Device Clinic Positions: Cardiac device technicians hired by device clinics and hospitals typically work a set schedule Monday-Friday. They enable successful pacemaker and ICD implantation and/or perform ongoing in-person evaluation and remote monitoring of patients who have these devices.

Personal Qualities You May Need
This is a rewarding line of work—but it’s also a demanding one. You will need to develop a strong clinical understanding and technical expertise about cardiovascular disease and therapies. When working for a healthcare system you must learn about all of the manufacturer’s devices and therapies. When working for a medical device company you must become the expert on your product line, all while also managing customer relationships. The best cardiac medical device specialists are:

Driven—willing to work hard, work long, and spot opportunities
Quick study—able to absorb and apply new information in a short amount of time
Personable—medical device careers touch many lives, and you should be able to relate to everyone you meet on your sales round
Detail-oriented—your work has a direct impact on patient quality of life
Clear communicator—you’ll need to persuade and instruct as part of your role, so writing and presentation skills matter
Confident handling data—whether it’s device data or sales data, you will need to analyze numbers and create reports
Comfortable in medical settings—you’re likely to be present at operations, so a sturdy constitution is necessary

What You Can Earn
Starting salaries vary depending on the position and your employer, with typical starting salaries ranging from $60-$80K per year.

Career Growth Opportunities
Since cardiac clinical specialist and device specialist teams are well structured within organizations, individuals have many opportunities for advancement. You may become a Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS) or Certified Electrophysiology Specialist (CEPS) after gaining experience in the field by taking an examination conducted by International Board of Heart Rhythm Society (IBHRE©).

Clinical specialists often start off in CRM devices or EP mapping ablation and cryotherapy. As they progress in their careers clinical specialists may pursue clinical management or medical device sales roles, or move into other specialty areas such as interventional cardiology and structural heart. Others transition over to marketing, training or engineering, or research & development roles based on their career goals.

What is Cardiac Rhythm Management? Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM) includes implantable devices to treat either too slow a heart rhythm (pacemakers) or too fast a rhythm (cardioverter defibrillators).

  • Bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Heart block (disruption of an electrical signal which controls the heart’s pumping action)
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular fast heartbeat in the atria)
  • Ventricular fibrillation (irregular fast heartbeat in the ventricles)
  • Long QT syndrome (when the heart takes dangerously long to recharge between beats)

A pacemaker is a small device containing a pulse generator and leads. It is placed under the skin in the chest with leads threaded through veins into the heart to help control abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) using electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.  Patients with a slow heart are said to have bradycardia. Pacemakers are implanted in patients with bradycardia to stimulate the heart to beat at a normal rate and pump more effectively. Bradycardia occurs when the electrical signal from the sinus atrial (SA) node slow or disappear and do not produce enough beats. Bradycardia may also occur when the patient has AV block when not all heartbeats are able to travel from the top chamber to the bottom chamber of the heart.

An Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) detects and stops abnormal heartbeats or arrhythmias.The ICD continuously monitors the heartbeat and delivers electrical pulses or high energy shock to restore a normal heart rhythm when necessary. ICDs prevent sudden death in ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation patients. Ventricular tachycardia occurs when the bottom chambers of the heart (the ventricles) beat too fast and have a hard time pumping blood. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when the ventricles beat too fast and unevenly making the heart flutter resulting in little or no blood pumped to the body and brain.

Cardiac Electrophysiology procedures analyze, diagnose and treat the heart’s electrical activities. The treatments identify where an arrhythmia or abnormal rhythm is originating. Each heartbeat is triggered by an electrical impulse normally generated from special cells in the atrium (upper right chamber of the heart). When a person has atrial fibrillation, these signals are faulty, firing so rapidly that the upper chambers of your heart quiver (fibrillate) instead of beating efficiently.

Electrophysiology procedures take place in an electrophysiology (EP) Lab or a catheterization (Cath) lab at a hospital while the patient is mildly sedated. The EP mapping procedure is used to determine the appropriate therapy a patient needs; including medication, device implantation, cardiac ablation/cryotherapy, or cardiovascular surgery.

During an Electrophysiology (EP) study three to five electrically sensitive catheters are placed inside the heart to record electrical activity.  An EP study, typically lasts from two to four hours. Additional time is spent if treatments such as cardiac ablation or cryotherapy are used. An EP mapping procedure in total may last three to six hours.

EP Ablation Procedures take place after the EP mapping study has identified the areas of electrical abnormality needing treatment. The doctor threads long ablation catheters through blood vessels to your heart. Ablation catheters using extreme heat or cold are used to disrupt or eliminate cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms by disabling those cells that cause AF or Atrial Fibrillation, thus restoring the heart to a normal rhythm.

The most common EP technique for treating atrial fibrillation is a catheter ablation procedure using heat. The use of cryoablation or extreme cold is a newer technique. The doctor runs a catheter from the groin to the area of the heart where the arrhythmia originates. He or she then uses it to deploy and inflate a tiny balloon that freezes the area. The result in both hot or cold ablation procedures is scar tissue that stops the firing pathway of the faulty signals.

Structural heart disease is one of the fastest growing segments of cardiovascular therapies. Structural heart disease refers to defects in the heart’s valve, walls or chambers and can be congenital (present at birth) or develop with age. Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a structural defect is congenital and present at birth. Aortic stenosis and mitral valve prolapse are structural heart conditions that occur over time with age. Open-heart surgery may still be required for some structural heart disease, but new catheter-based percutaneous (through the skin) therapies provide the benefits of lower risk, faster recovery and shorter hospitalization.

Structural heart procedures are performed by passing instruments through catheters inserted through the leg into the heart to deliver treatment devices. For example, a patient with a diseased heart valve may receive a new valve inserted via catheter in a compressed state which is then expanded once in the correct position, where it becomes a fully functioning valve.

Common structural heart procedures include valve replacements, repairs, clips, closures. Therapies include Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR), Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defects (ASD/VSD), Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HOCM), Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion, Paravalvular Leak Repair, and Pulmonary Embolism.

Interventional cardiology treatments include cardiac catheterization, balloon angioplasty, and stent implantation.

A Cardiac Catheterization is a diagnostic test used to evaluate the presence, size, and location of plaque deposits in the arteries, the strength of the heart muscle, and the function of the heart valves. During cardiac catheterization, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg or wrist and gently guided toward the heart. Contrast dye is injected into the arteries of the heart so that the cardiologist can trace the movement of blood through the arteries and the chambers of the heart.

Angioplasty which is also called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention is used to restore blood flow to the heart. This procedure is done as an emergency procedure for a heart attack patient or a scheduled procedure to treat the condition of chronically inadequate blood flow to the heart.

Balloon angioplasty uses a catheter with a balloon tip which is inserted into the site of the blocked artery and then inflated to stretch open the walls of the artery. An Atherectomy procedure uses a catheter with a special pulverizing device to open hardened blockages in the coronary arteries.  A cardiac stent is a small metal coil which permanently holds a clogged vein open. Stenting and atherectomy procedures are often done in conjunction with angioplasty.

Cardiac Medical Device Jobs and Employers

Employed by
a Hospital

Cardiac Device Technician

  • Employed by a hospital or clinic working in a cardiology clinic or cath lab
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support and patient care of cardiac device patients
  • Clinical knowledge of all manufacturer’s devices and therapies required
  • Typically a set work schedule and no travel required

Employed by
a Medical Device Company

Cardiac Clinical Specialist

  • Employed by a medical device corporation
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support of cardiac device technology (pacemakers
  • ICDs) during patient follow up or implant
  • Support commercial functions of the role such as product/therapy education with hospital staff and patients
  • Work schedules are dynamic and travel to multiple hospitals is required

Employed by
a Hospital

EP Technician

  • Employed by a hospital working in a cardiac EP lab
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support and patient care during electrophysiology procedures
  • Clinical knowledge of all manufacturer’s EP therapies required
  • Typically a set work schedule and no travel required

Employed by
a Medical Device Company

EP Mapping Clinical Specialist

  • Employed by a medical device corporation
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support during EP mapping & ablation procedures
  • Support commercial functions of the role such as product and therapy education with hospital staff
  • Work schedules are dynamic and travel to multiple hospitals is required

Employed by
a Hospital

Cath Lab Technician

  • Employed by a hospital working in a cardiac cath lab
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support and patient care during invasive cardiovascular procedures such as angioplasty and cardiac catheterization
  • Clinical knowledge of all manufacturer’s IC and SH diseases and therapies required
  • Typically a set work schedule and no travel required

Employed by
a Medical Device Company

IC or SH Clinical Specialist

  • Employed by a medical device corporation
  • Primary responsibilities: clinical support during invasive cardiovascular procedures such as angioplasty and cardiac catheterization
  • Support commercial functions of the role such as product and therapy education with hospital staff
  • Work schedules are dynamic and travel to multiple hospitals is required

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