A cardiologist is a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating diseases involving the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, and peripheral vascular disease.
These doctors generally work in private practice or a hospital or clinic setting and are experts at reading and interpreting diagnostic tests, including electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, stress testing, and cardiac catheterization.
If you want to pursue a career as a cardiologist, here are some things you should know.
Requirements to Become a Cardiologist
Before considering a career in cardiology, you must plan your academic path thoroughly.
1: Bachelor’s Degree
It would be best if you first attained a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. While many medical schools don’t require you to choose a major as long as you complete the required pre-med courses, it’s still common for students to choose majors such as chemistry, biology, or other sciences to help prepare them for medical school.
2: Medical Degree
After earning your bachelor’s degree, you must enroll in a four-year medical school program accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Most medical schools will require you to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to be considered for admittance to their program. During the four years of medical school, you’ll spend most of your time in the classroom and must complete several courses, including anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry, and physiology.
3: Residency Program
After medical school, you must complete an additional three years of training, known as a residency program. Most cardiologists complete a combined residency in internal medicine and cardiology. The residency program involves completing a three-year cardiology rotation, during which you’ll work primarily in the hospital setting. You’ll also be assigned to a faculty member as a research assistant, doing medical research on heart disease.
4: Fellowship Program
After completing your residency program, most cardiologists will work in their field for two years before entering a two-year fellowship program. It is done to improve your skills and expertise. You can choose a variety of fellowship programs to complete your training or an area that interests you most.
5: Board Certification
To obtain your board certification, you must complete these requirements and pass the American Board of Internal Medicine examination. You’ll then be entitled to use the credential “board certified” after your name and be viewed as the top cardiologist in your field. With a certificate, you can get many full-time cardiology jobs in hospitals, clinics, private practices, NGOs, etc.
Roles of a Cardiologist
Understanding the roles and responsibilities of a cardiologist is vital to your career and professional growth.
1: Diagnosing and Diagnostic Testing
Your primary role as a cardiologist is to diagnose diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and congenital heart disease. In addition, you will evaluate a patient’s medical history and physical examination to develop a diagnosis using modern technologies and medical advancements in imagistic diagnosis, chemistry, radiology, etc.
2: Treating and Caring for Patients
Once your preliminary diagnosis has been established, you’ll treat the patient with medications, including beta blockers, potassium supplements, ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers. If a patient suffers from heart failure, you will monitor them closely to ensure they receive adequate treatment and care. You will also work closely with cardiothoracic surgeons who perform open-heart surgery or other procedures to treat patients.
3: Preventing Heart Disease
You will work with patients to help them prevent heart disease by lowering their blood pressure, losing weight, and quitting smoking. You may also advise patients at risk of developing heart disease to make lifestyle changes, including adding physical activity and changing the foods they eat.
Cardiologists can also choose to conduct medical research and publish articles on heart disease in medical journals. As a contributor to medical research, you must stay current on the latest treatments for heart disease.
5: Communicating with Patients
As a cardiologist working in a hospital or private practice, you will communicate with patients daily after they’ve been treated. You will be expected to answer any questions regarding their condition or treatment. As an empathetic medical professional, you will listen to your patient’s concerns and respond with attention and care.
The cardiologist is a crucial healthcare team member who deals with the most complicated and dire cases. They are the first to make the diagnosis and have to inform the urgent care physician of a patient’s condition. The role of a cardiologist in today’s healthcare system is changing rapidly. For example, cardiologists are learning more about cardiovascular conditions as technology advances and new procedures are being developed. Additionally, researchers are making advances in artificial organs and heart transplants. This exciting work has provided cardiologists with amazing career opportunities and professional development paths.