A cardiologist is a licensed doctor for the veins, arteries and heart. They diagnose and treat various cardiovascular ailments or diseases, such as heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Cardiologists may focus in one or more cardiology specializations, such as echocardiography, electrophysiology, nuclear cardiology and interventional cardiology. The tasks of cardiologists also vary. For instance, non-invasive cardiologists specialize in diagnosing cardiovascular problems, while invasive non-interventional cardiologists diagnose and perform catheterizations. Those who diagnose and perform medical procedures to cure cardiovascular diseases are called interventional cardiologists.
Tasks of a cardiologist depend on the focus of their training. Regular cardiologists diagnose and treat heart problems using non-invasive tests and treatments such as creating a customized fitness program or prescribing medication. Interventional cardiologists diagnose and perform various invasive procedures in treating cardiac disease. Some obtain additional training to become cardiac surgeons. Cardiologists who specialize in echocardiography administer and read results of echocardiographic Doppler studies as well as perform and interpret stress tests.
Regardless of sub-specializations, cardiologists perform similar tasks such as performing diagnoses, reading and maintaining patient records, consulting other doctors to help in diagnosis and treatment, providing emergency care, making referrals to various specialists based on their condition, giving prescriptions and informing patients on how to take medication, outlining heart care and preventive measures, as well as explaining side effects of medications.
Education and Training Requirements
To become a cardiologist, one must obtain 4 years of undergraduate school in courses such as mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, social sciences, humanities and English, followed by 4 years of medical school in cardiology. To gain practical experience in the health industry, these physicians must then obtain 3 to 8 years of internship and residency in clinics or local hospitals. All cardiologists are regulated, so they must obtain licenses by passing medical school, completing an accredited program in cardiology, passing a national exam and applying for licensure in the state, before they could practice as cardiologists.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
To become successful in this field, one must have a nurturing personality. Since cardiologists are responsible for the patients, they should make each patient their priority and put aside their own concerns. They must also possess excellent written and verbal communication skills, mathematical and statistics skills, analytical and problem-solving skills, strong interpersonal skills and time management skills, among others.
Cardiologists work in pleasant, well-lit and fully equipped clinics and hospitals. Work hours usually exceed 60 hours per week, especially if they are highly recommended in their field. Although they have offices in hospitals, most cardiologists work on call, resulting in long work hours, early morning calls and irregular work hours to check on patients.
Salary of cardiologists depends largely on specialty, experience, location and type of facility. They earn somewhere between $230,000 and $320,000 per year.