How Perfusion School Has Changed: Past, Present & Future

Posted on November 17, 2021

The past 60 years have witnessed a major evolution in clinical cardiopulmonary perfusion education. Much of this progress can be attributed to the continued advancement of medical and surgical technologies. Additionally, a change in how the profession sees itself has impacted perfusion education. 

Let’s take a look at how perfusion school has changed and what we can anticipate for the future. 

Rapid Growth in Perfusionist Demand 

In the early days of perfusion practice, new clinicians were trained on the job or in a laboratory. However, with the rapid expansion in cardiac surgical procedures, formal perfusion educational programs became a necessity. 

As cardiac surgery became safer and more available, the number of procedures continued to grow. Upon adding in the development of heart and lung transplant surgery, the demand for qualified perfusionists increased even more. 

As an illustration, the chart below shows the explosion in the number of adult lung transplants worldwide:

Source: European Lung white book

Perfusionist Education & Certification

Initially, the American Society of Extracorporeal Technology was responsible for perfusionist credentialing and developing certification guidelines. Currently, the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP) assumes these responsibilities. 

In 2015-2016, the ABCP surveyed 3,875 eligible Certified Clinical Perfusionists (CCPs) and 3,056 (78.9%) responded. The survey reported that 94 percent of perfusionists are graduates from accredited schools of perfusion. Even more encouraging is that 91 percent of the survey respondents consider their educational experience as being positive.

Perfusionist licensure has also been adopted by many states, and nearly 50% of all perfusionists are covered by some legislative act. 

How perfusion school has changed student evaluation methods  

One major challenge has been developing minimum standards for perfusionist clinical evaluations. Initially, standards included the use of checklists. This has since evolved to more complex monitoring and recording of significant events and parameters during procedures. Likewise, educational standards have been required to evolve to match new clinical realities.   

With the institution of formal schooling and curriculums, classroom testing and clinical rotation evaluation have become the norm. Also, many programs encourage clinical research as part of their core curriculum.

Modern Perfusion Simulation 

As a bridge between the classroom and the operation room, high-fidelity perfusion simulation is another component of modern perfusion education. 

Simulation labs may include:

  • Patient simulator
  • State-of-the-art perfusion equipment
  • Fully instrumented operating rooms
  • Digital patient data capture 
  • Audio-visual recording 

With simulation equipment, programs can develop a variety of patient scenarios to teach critical perfusion decision pathways and evaluate clinical skills without incurring any risk to actual patients.

The Future of Perfusion Education

As medical science advances, so will perfusion education. Some areas already seeing significant progress are real-time perfusion monitoring and electronic health records. As in nearly every industry, the capture and analysis of data open the door to new innovations and improved levels of performance. 

The ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of physiologic data promises to transform the practice of perfusion. Not only will monitoring become more diverse and accurate, but with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), the quality of care could improve significantly. 

AI/ML algorithms enable the creation of predictive models based on historical data sets. Therefore, we can foresee a future where the perfusionist could anticipate changes in patient status and make adjustments in a more proactive and preventative manner. 

In the future, perfusion education programs will more than likely incorporate these new technologies into their curriculums. 

Article references:

A 2015-2016 Survey of American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion Certified Clinical Perfusionists: Perfusion Profile and Clinical Trends

The evolution of perfusion education in America

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