I have long suspected this fact, but today, while intubating plastic dummies (completely unrelated to Cardiology) this fact settled itself across my brow and I have completely embraced it. I want to be a Cardiologist and I am going to be a good one.
When I was at highschool many years ago (*sob* getting OLD) I at one stage went through a stage of wanting to be a paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. Mostly because I didn't know that you could be a heart specialist and not be a surgeon. Now that I am much older and hopefully wiser, I know better. Through my med school career I have entertained a lot of possibilities, then discarded them by the wayside as I either got bored with them, or found something better.
There is something very cool about the idea of being responsible for knowing about the heart, which is the most amazing and spiritual organ (though the brain is pretty funky as well, would be a neurologist too if I coud!). But the appeal is more than that for me. I have the visceral pull towards it that I get when my 6th sense/intuition/Gleam beckons. It just feels right. Correct. Like the path is illuminated.
Cardiologists are physicians certified to diagnose, treat and manage disorders of the cardiovascular system. This includes the remarkable organ that keeps us alive - the human heart - and the arteries and veins flowing through our bodies.
Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Professor Joe Hung, says the more common types of cardiovascular disorders treated by cardiologists include heart attacks and angina (chest pain due to coronary artery disease), high blood pressure, valvular heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), and congenital heart conditions.
A cardiologist's patients are either referred to them by another medical specialist or general practitioner, or are treated by cardiologists when they arrive at a hospital's emergency department suffering from an acute cardiovascular-related condition with symptoms such as chest pains, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, palpitations or dizziness.
Surgery Not Sole Option
After diagnosis, a cardiologist may treat a patient with non-surgical procedures such as oral medicines in conjunction with a health management plan and regular consultations with the cardiologist. In more severe cases, patients may have to undergo open heart surgery, which would be performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. In these cases, the cardiologist manages the care of the patient both before and after surgery.
Specially qualified cardiologists are certified to perform less invasive medical procedures such as angioplasty, which involves the insertion of balloon catheters in the person's coronary arteries to dilate the coronary arteries.
It takes many years of intensive study to become a cardiologist. About nine years in addition to the six needed to become a general practitioner should just about cover it!
Cardiologists need to be very knowledgable about the cardiovascular system, cardiovascular anatomy, cardiovascular physiology, cardiovascular metabolism, molecular biology of the cardiovascular system, and cardiovascular pharmacology.
They must thoroughly understand and be competent to perform and interpret specialised tests and procedures such as cardiac catheterisation (a procedure that produces pictures of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart and reveal if one or more of the arteries is partially or completly blocked). They also insert and manage pacemakers - battery-powered implantable devices that electrically stimulate the heart to contract and pump blood throughout the body. Pacemakers are usually implanted in patients whose own heart's 'spark plug' or electrical system is no longer functioning normally.
Ongoing learning is a significant feature of this occupation as new procedures and findings about heart disease arise.
''One of the biggest changes has been the development of new procedures and techniques that allow us to diagnose with greater accuracy, and new therapies that allow us to treat heart conditions without the need for open heart surgery. There will also be an increased awareness of gene therapy over the next decade. People will be injected with gene products to help them grow heart muscle or blood vessels,'' says Professor Hung.
Cardiologists can study even further, usually up to two years, to enter a subspeciality area of cardiology. The areas available include:
*Interventional Cardiology, which involves interventional procedures such as balloon angioplasty and the use of various cutting and laser devices used to remove plaque from arteries.
*Electrophysiology, which deals specifically in the treatment of arrhythmias and the implantation and use of pacemakers and defibrillators.
*Echocardiography, which involves the performance and interpretation of cardiac ultrasound procedures.
*Nuclear Cardiology, which involves assessment of the pumping function of the heart, the presence of blockages in coronary arteries, and the degree of damage to the heart using injected radiotracer agents.
Prevention, Not Cure
''In cardiology there are lots of people who are very sick but whose health can be greatly improved by new treatments and procedures in association with cardiac rehabilitation. That makes this a very satisfying profession,'' says Professor Hung.
He emphasises the importance that cardiologists place on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. He says that all of the State's cardiologists are involved alongside organisations such as the National Heart Foundation and the WA Health Department in actively promoting the prevention of this disease.
Cardiologists work from offices based in hospitals or specialist medical centres. Travel may be necessary for cardiologists to attend professional development conferences.
This is a very small workforce that experiences a low turnover. However, a higher number of cardiologists will be needed if poor lifestyle habits continue to adversely affect the incidence of heart disease, particularly as the population ages.
From here http://getaccess.westone.wa.gov.au/careers/profiles/Data/OCC231.asp
The salary quoted at the end of that webpage is incorrect based on current estimates...