SFCC's free cardiovascular clinics are off to a good start

Santa Fe Community College cardiovascular tech student Ross Smith, 25, prepares Sterling Hope, 65, of Gainesville for his echo cardiogram at SFCC on Friday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 11:40 p.m.

Sterling Hope was the ideal patient Friday morning for a group of slightly nervous students.


Program preview

  • What: SFCC preview of its Cardiovascular Technology Program (CVT)

  • Why: The open house-style event will give prospective students a chance to find out what a cardiovascular technician does and how to apply to the program. CVT is a 22-month program to teach students how to perform pulmonary function tests and cardiac catheterizations, as well as vascular and cardiac ultrasounds.

  • Where: SFCC Northwest Campus, Room WA-113 in the new Health Sciences Annex

  • When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday

  • For more info: Call Jennifer Weeks at 395-5972 or go to www.sfcc.edu

Hope was calm and unhurried, like most of the others who volunteered for non-invasive tests performed by the Cardiovascular Technology - CVT - students at Santa Fe Community College.

"My wife, Joan, told me about this, so we both came," Hope said. "They are real good to us here."

Hope's first student technician, Debbie Harrell, said she thought things went well during Hope's EKG, except for a balky printer.

"But we got it done," Harrell said.

The Hopes were among a few dozen local residents participating in the first of five, free Friday morning clinics offered by SFCC to give CVT students some experience before they begin their clinical rotations at locations around the state. Preregistration was required for the pulmonary and ultrasound tests and no diagnosing was available. Instead, the volunteers were given the results of their tests to take to their primary care physician.

SFCC is one of the three original CVT programs in the United States, according to program director Reeda Fullington. The other two were in Spokane, Wash. and San Diego. Fullington said today there are about 24 programs nationwide, including two others in Florida - one at Edison Community College and another at Valencia Community College.

Fullington can reel off details about the history of the program here and nationally because she has been such a big part of it.

"This program started off as a hospital-based certification program at Shands in 1970," said Fullington, who has been the SFCC program director for more than 30 years. "We started getting calls asking for people to be sent all over for training. In 1974, the program was moved to SFCC and students began earning an associate of science degree."

The program admits 25 students twice a year. Once admitted, students spend five semesters - about 22 months - and $8,386 earning their degree. Then they are qualified to take the national registry test.

"For several years, we have been encouraging our students to take the test and this year we are requiring it because of Medicare," Fullington said. Beginning this year, Medicare will only pay for vascular and cardiac ultrasounds when they are performed by a registered technician.

SFCC health sciences adviser Scott Fortner said SFCC is looking for specific types of students for the program and must turn away about half who apply.

"This is different from nursing because there is so much equipment - so much golly gee whiz equipment," Fortner said. "We are looking for people who want to help people, who have a level of compassion and empathy, but who also have good hand-eye coordination and are comfortable around a lot of equipment."

Applicants are ranked on a point system after they have completed prerequisites like chemistry. Points are awarded for good grades in the prerequisite courses as well as for the overall grade point average in college courses. Prior health care education in areas like certified nursing assistant of phlebotomy add points, as do volunteer activities in health care situations. And there is also a 34-question, critical-thinking test administered on campus.

"Some people have problem solving skills," Fortner said. "Most need a little polishing on those skills, so we do have a lab where people can study before taking the test."

State workforce statistics show starting salaries for registered technicians range from about $38,000 in the Gainesville area to more than $55,000 in other areas of the state. Santa Fe offers one of three CVT programs in Florida. SFCC officials said because the program is so well-known and respected, all of its students have been offered jobs on graduation for as long as they can remember.

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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