Clinical perfusionists, or clinical perfusion scientists are part of the surgery team. They specialise in setting up and controlling the heart-lung bypass equipment which keeps a patient alive during open-heart surgery, or other procedures such as liver transplant. The equipment completely takes over the functions of the heart and lungs: oxygenating the blood, removing carbon dioxide, restoring the temperature and pumping it back into and around the body.
You could be:
taking readings from equipment which supports the blood circulation in critically ill patients
setting up and monitoring intra-aortic balloon pumps that provide additional support in cases of cardiac weakness
working as part of the open-heart surgery or transplant team
setting up, operating and controlling the mechanical and electronic heart-lung machine
continually monitoring the patient’s condition throughout the operation
interpreting and controlling the balance of gases and chemicals in the blood
participating in complicated procedures such as minimal access valve repairs
perhaps helping with research finding improved methods of treatment.
Trainee clinical perfusionists working in the NHS generally start on Band 6, £37,831 to £46,100 a year.
After completing the training, clinical perfusionists are on Band 7, £46,244 to £53,789 a year. With experience this may rise to Band 8a, £50,470 to £54,482 a year. The current pay scales are from April 2023.
You will work in a hospital, spending most of your time in operating theatres, anaesthetic areas, recovery rooms or intensive care units.
You will work a 37-hour week with evening and weekend shifts and might have to be on call for emergencies. Part time work might be available.
You would wear a uniform and other protective clothing, such as a face mask, when in sterile working areas.
To enter as a trainee clinical perfusionist you should have a good Honours degree (minimum 2:1) in a biological or clinical science subject, or a degree in medicine, dentistry or veterinary science (SCQF Level 10).
Minimum entry requirements for a science degree course are 4-5 Highers. You should check with institutions' websites for individual requirements.
You need to apply for a trainee clinical perfusion scientist job in a hospital which carries out open-heart surgery or organ transplants.
good at working in teams especially during long operations
caring and empathetic with patients.
Trainee clinical perfusionists work under the supervision of senior staff, and study towards a Postgraduate Masters (MSc) in Perfusion Science from the University of Bristol. You would attend the university over 2 years part time.
On completion of the postgraduate qualification, you would be eligible to apply for registration with The College of Clinical Perfusion Scientists of Great Britain and Ireland. This is necessary in order to practise.
Moving on to more senior jobs may depend on taking more advanced qualifications and doing clinical research.
You might go on to specialise in, for example, isolated limb perfusion or liver transplant procedures.
You would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to keep up to date with the latest developments and technology.
You could move into management or lecturing.
A British qualification in perfusion is acceptable throughout the world and so you could find work abroad.
There are at least 33,000 open heart operations performed in Great Britain and Ireland each year, varying from heart valve repair or replacement, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, to heart and heart-lung transplantation. (Society of Clinical Perfusion Scientists of Great Britain and Ireland website, 2021).