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What Is Involved in Echocardiography Training?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 13 May 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Echocardiography training is required of many different medical professionals, from doctors to lab techs, but always involves specific instruction on how to operate echocardiogram machines, how to read heart x-rays, and how to identify irregular readings. Doctors typically receive much more specific training than do nurses and techs. Most of this training is designed to help doctors diagnose and recognize heart irregularities. For cardiac nurses and technicians, echocardiography training usually focuses on supporting roles, including operating machinery, understanding vocabulary, and responding to doctors’ orders.

Of all the medical specialties, those pertaining to the heart are among the most complex. Medical professionals studying or working on the heart must usually undergo more extensive training programs than if they were involved in more general medical practice or evaluation. Echocardiography is a medical procedure used exclusively in heart treatments. It is essentially a sonogram of the heart, which gives treating physicians an inside and real-time view of what is going on inside a patient’s chest.

Echocardiograms, or ECGs as they are commonly known, are performed with the help of a special cardiac ultrasound machine. Much of the initial echocardiography training relates to the proper use of this machine. Some of this knowledge is gleaned trough textbooks, but much is from actual hands-on experience.

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Depending on the hospital, doctors may themselves perform ECGs, or may delegate this task to cardiac nurses or other technicians. Cardiac sonograms are relatively easy to perform, but uniform, meaningful results require specialized techniques. Generating the cardiac echo is usually only the first step, though.

The next part of echocardiography training is learning to interpret the machine’s readouts. An ECG will show a beating image of the heart on the screen, in much the way that a fetal ultrasound displays an image of a developing child during pregnancy. To an untrained eye, however, the ECG machine does not really say anything meaningful.

Doctors and typically learn to interpret cardiac echos by studying samples. One of the best ways to learn to spot abnormalities is to understand what a healthy heart looks like when portrayed in an echocardiogram. This usually involves a lot of time in the lab and many hours of practice reading outputs.

Nurses and technicians, too, must have a sense of what is normal and what is not. Though neither of these professionals is responsible for making diagnoses or actually treating patients, they often play a very hands-on role when it comes to orchestrating any needed procedures. If the attending physician is not able to actually perform the echo, he may ask a nurse or tech to take care of the logistics, then brief him on the results. Knowing when to alert the doctor about irregularities can save a lot of time and can often also save lives.

Echocardiography training is only a small part of any cardiac practice. Training does not usually involve much scientific or medical expertise beyond basic recognition of the heart’s anatomy. In order to be a successful doctor or nurse in a cardiac unit, more advanced knowledge is almost always required through other more specific venues. Most of the time, echocardiography training is limited to the specific skills needed to perform the ECG procedure.

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