CARDIOVASCULAR SPECIALIST

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 4th 2018. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email tcnpub3@gmail.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Heart trouble. The first step usually, when heart trouble is suspected, is an EKG. An Electrocardiogram that records the electrical activity of your heart. It is usually administered by a trained Electrophysiology Technician, who has tested and been certified as a Registered Cardiac Electrophysiology Specialist (RCES). The next step may be a sonogram of your heart, called an echo. That will probably be administered by a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS). If you need a stint (a balloon), then that is a trip to the Cath Lab, or even outpatient surgery for a pacemaker, those procedures will be supervised by your heart doctor, but probably actually performed by a Cardiovascular Invasive Technician, a Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS). The national medium income for these technicians is around $60,000 per year. The low end is out here in the country but pushing six figures in the big hospitals in the city. There are several schools that teach these courses, none in Missouri. It takes an Associate’s Degree or be a graduate of a medical tech school, to take the RCIS test. Many larger hospitals prefer a four year Bachelor’s Degree. Unless, the job applicant has military experience. Army cardiovascular specialists are highly sought after in the civilian job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees a 10 percent increase in these jobs over the next 10 years.
I have written previously about how the medical community, in the Army, is different. Our primary care doctor spent eight years as an army doctor. When asked about his service he laughs and says; “But I wasn’t in the real army, I was in the Medical Corps.” They are definitely different. Over the years there have always been complaints that the medical people were not as “Army” as other soldiers. Appearance wise medical people are closer to “real Army” now than they have been, but their job is not to take the fight to the enemy, it is to save lives and maintain the health of the Army, and they are very competent and professional at doing that.
Army Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 68N Cardiovascular Specialist. After basic training the advanced individual training (AIT) for this MOS totals 56 weeks. Phase one is 21 weeks at the huge army medical school at Fort Sam Houston, Texas (San Antonio). The Navy and the Air Force also send their cardiovascular techs to that school. Phase two is 35 weeks of onsite training and supervision at one of the Army Medical Centers. Upon graduation they are given the RCIS test and are nationally registered. They also have over 50 college semester hours, recognized by most medical tech schools. Comments from many currently working in this field, in civilian hospitals, are that the army training is far superior to any of the civilian schools. The Army crams most of the hard core cardiology, radiography, and pharmacology subjects of a Bachelor of Science degree in cardiovascular technology into the space of just over a year. It is not an easy school. There is no English or history or other electives, just hard core anatomy, physiology of the coronary and pulmonary system, radiography, pathophysiology of cardiopulmonary disease, pharmacology, noninvasive cardiology, and invasive cardiology, taught eight hours a day, five days a week for 21 weeks. Soldiers who survive this stuffed education with frequent cram tests move on to the 35 weeks of supervised internship as a cardiovascular technician. It is considered, by many in army medicine, to be the most rigorous course in the medical field. But the success rate in the school is actually very high, because of small classes. This is a small field with maybe 70 soldiers in MOS 68N, army wide, which makes AIT classes very small, around 10 to 15 students per class. One AIT class only had 8 students. One student said it was like regular college but with a lot of formations and PT (Physical Training) every weekday.
Most of these people work in Cath Labs in the big army hospitals either as invasive cardiac techs (surgical) or echo techs (ultrasound). One soldier said it’s a pretty cool super rare medical MOS that leads to a high paying job in the civilian world.
With civilian hospitals looking for these people, you might think that the Army would have a hard time keeping them. It does. The army jobs for which enlistment bonuses are paid changes almost weekly. When the Army has trouble attracting people to a particular job, it increases the enlistment bonus for that job. A few months ago people enlisting for MOS 68N were receiving a $30,000 sign up bonus for a five year enlistment, which is the minimum for 68N. For a six year enlistment they were paid a $40,000 bonus. The Army got its desired number of recruits and removed the enlistment bonus. The requirements to be considered for this job are first be otherwise qualified to enlist in the Army, have one year each of Algebra, Chemistry, and Physics with a grade of C (75 percent) or better in each, and score 101 in ST (skilled technical) and 107 in GT (General Technical) on the ASVAB tests. To get these soldiers to stay, the Army is offering sizeable re-enlistment bonuses. If a 68N gets assigned to a Combat Support Hospital, that does not deploy, they don’t get as much experience as those assigned to a regular army hospital. Some, who were assigned to Combat Support Hospital’s, said that, with permission of their commander, they moonlighted at local civilian hospitals to practice their skills. But those assigned to regular hospitals get a tremendous amount of experience. These soldiers have to enlist for five years to get MOS 68N, which means after training they will be working in a hospital for over three and a half years. With the Army paying Tuition Assistance of $250.00 per semester hour, up to $4,500 per year, and the GI Bill picking up the rest of the tab for active duty soldiers taking classes, about anyone should be able to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Cardiovascular Technology within that five years, especially starting with 50 semester hours in the core subjects.
I found comments from some who spent as much as 10 years in the Army before leaving for a civilian job. Because of their credentials and experience, the civilian salary was simply too much not to accept. In the past, if soldiers left the service prior to retirement, they left with nothing. Looking from now to 10 years into the future a soldier could leave the service with a sizeable Thrift Savings Plan retirement account.

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