Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist Career GuideJanuary 9, 2015
Certain lifestyle changes can help enhance the quality of life and lower potential health risks in patients who have been diagnosed with heart or lung problems. Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialists are trained to help patients understand and manage their health problems so they can live a longer, better and more active life.
As a specialist in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, you will work with patients who have been diagnosed with ailments such as coronary artery disease, angina, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and heart attack among other conditions.
The first time you meet your patients will typically be after an initial diagnosis or immediately after a health crisis, such as a heart attack. In the case of a health crisis, the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist takes over as soon as the patient is stabilized.
Detailed job description
Job functions of a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist include:
- Making sure patients understand their condition and their prescribed medical regimen.
- Identifying unique risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension, poor diet and other lifestyle factors that may be contributing to the patient’s health problems.
- Educating and supporting patients in making healthier choices, such as increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthier diet.
- Recommending interventions ranging from lifestyle changes to medical treatments that could help reduce health risks.
- Helping patients understand when they can safely resume normal activities.
- Custom-designing and monitoring appropriate exercise programs.
A healthier diet, increased in physical activity, losing excess weight and taking certain medications can help patients lower their health risks and lead better, more productive lives. While patients typically feel motivated to make healthy changes immediately after their initial diagnosis of heart or lung disease, many inadvertently revert to old behaviors as time goes by. Part of your job as a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist is to keep patients motivated by providing continual information and positive support.
Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists usually work in rehabilitation centers, hospitals and outpatient clinics. They may meet with patients in an exam room, an office or a supervised exercise facility. Most professionals in this field work regular business hours with a few opting to meet patients and supervise group exercise programs during the evening or on weekends.
To practice in this allied medical specialty, you must first train as a physical therapist, a registered nurse, an exercise physiologist or a respiratory therapist.
There is no individual certification for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists. However, accredited facilities that provide cardiopulmonary rehabilitation services receive their certification from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation also sponsors internships and scholarships for students who are interested in pursuing a career in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.
Salary Range & Outlook
Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists are often trained in other fields such as physical therapy, nursing or exercise physiology. Salaries vary widely, depending on the level of training and the place of work.
Entry level cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists can expect to earn on average between $18,000 and $30,000 a year