Cardiac physiologist

Cardiac physiologists are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart conditions. They can work in a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic specialities, from in-utero scans to end-of-life care.

Using specialist equipment, cardiac physiologists can assess and monitor a patient’s heart. This equipment helps them record:

  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • electrical activity

Cardiac surgeons and doctors rely on these findings to diagnose problems and decide on treatment.

Starting your career

Subject choices

If you’re interested in a career as a cardiac physiologist, useful school subjects include:

  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Human Biology
  • Maths
  • Physics

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

Apprenticeships

Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship can give you the skills, knowledge and work experience to begin your career journey in healthcare.

Learn more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

College and university

To become a cardiac physiologist, you’ll need a university degree. If you choose to go to college before university, you could study an HNC/HND in:

  • Applied Science
  • Applied Biological Science

If you’re applying to university, you should consider a degree in:

  • Physiology
  • Cardiac Physiology
  • Clinical Science
  • Healthcare Science
  • Physiological Science
  • Medical Science
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Sciences

Your degree must also be accredited by the Academy for Heath Care Science (AHCS).

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Search for college or university courses on My World of Work.

NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP)

Once you’ve achieved a first or 2:1 honour’s degree, you can apply for the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).

You’ll be employed on a fixed-term contract and paid a salary during your training. The programme lasts 3 years and involves:

  • workplace rotations
  • approved and accredited workplace-based training
  • gaining an MSc in cardiac physiology
  • passing the Objective Final Structured Assessment

The role

As an NHSScotland cardiac physiologist, your findings will help doctors diagnose cardiac problems, decide treatment and monitor patients’ progress. You might:

  • perform tests on people with suspected heart problems
  • provide reports for other medical professionals
  • regularly use specialist equipment to assess and monitor patients’ health

Cardiac physiologists also work closely with patients who have pacemakers. You’ll make sure these patients are comfortable and that their pacemaker is functioning properly.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • monitoring blood pressure and heartbeat rate
  • carrying out procedures such as echocardiographs (ECG) and cardiac catherization
  • carrying out exercise tolerance tests on patients
  • scanning and logging interventional equipment used
  • making sure equipment is calibrated and ready for use
  • setting up cardiac catheter labs as appropriate for specialist procedures
  • taking an active role in assisting the catheter lab team to improve and implement positive change

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • collaboration
  • communication
  • IT
  • decision-making
  • leadership
  • problem-solving
  • teamwork

You’ll also be expected to have experience of using specialist equipment, such as:

  • venflons
  • electrocardiograph machines
  • ultrasound scanners
  • cardiac rhythm management systems
  • pacemakers and programmers
  • automatic blood pressure and oxygen saturation recorders
  • defibrillators
  • cardiac ultrasound scanners
  • multi frequency ultrasound probes
  • pulse oximeters
  • blood gas analysers

You might also need to know how to use specialist equipment for recording intracardiac pressures and monitoring equipment for invasive procedures.

Who you’ll work with

You’ll work closely with a range of different healthcare professionals, including:

  • cardiographers
  • nurses
  • doctors
  • surgeons
  • cardiologists

Working environment

As a cardiac physiologist, you might work in:

  • GP surgeries
  • investigation laboratories
  • hospitals

Useful information

To work as a cardiac physiologist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are around 2,400 cardiac physiologists in Scotland.

Learning and development

Once you’ve become a registered cardiac physiologist, there are ongoing requirements for education and skills development. You’ll have lots of opportunities to go further and learn more.

You will be expected to undertake postgraduate study in a specialist cardiac area. There are associated highly specialist posts available in:

  • Cardiac Ultrasound Imaging
  • Heart Rhythm Diagnostics

With training and experience, you could move into a supervisory or management role, such as cardiac physiology service manager or head of clinical physiology. If you become head of the department, you would be responsible for a team of staff and for managing a budget.

There are also openings in research and teaching.

Professional bodies

Once you become a cardiac physiologist, you can register with the: