Cardiologists are specialist doctors with expertise in the cardiovascular system. They diagnose and treat patients with existing heart conditions as well as helping prevent diseases and disorders through education.
What is a cardiologist?
Cardiologists work with patients at various points in their medical journey. This includes giving diagnoses, treating patients with a recently diagnosed heart condition, providing ongoing care for those with pre-existing heart conditions, and responding to emergency care needs. Their work focuses on the heart, blood vessels and the wider cardiovascular system.
In order to become a cardiologist, you must follow a clear set pathway of medical training.
Cardiologists work in hospital settings, spanning multiple in-patient departments as well more emergency focused acute treatment units. They care for individuals of all ages, from paediatric care through to the elderly.
Your responsibilities as a cardiologist will vary depending on any specialisms you have, your level of seniority and any particular areas you work in. Common duties include:
- Responding to emergency care needs, such as those in the accident and emergency department.
- Taking detailed notes on patient medical histories to inform care plans.
- Creating care plans for patients, passing this information on to relevant medical professionals.
- Receiving patients triaged to you via other medical departments or referred to you by a general practitioner in the community.
- Diagnosing potential heart issues using various diagnostic methods such as echocardiograms.
- Performing medical procedures and advanced surgeries to improve and save lives.
- Advising on medication requirements to manage heart conditions and prescribe any necessary treatments.
- Giving advice on lifestyle changes to avoid health complications or diseases, such as heart disease.
- Overseeing outpatient clinics within your hospital cardiology department, checking in with regular patients and assessing any changes required from treatment plans.
- Carrying out academic research on new treatments, medical procedures and drugs, especially for those at senior levels of the profession.
- Training and teaching trainee cardiologists and offering shadowing for junior doctors in their initial foundation placements.
- Working as part of a wider team of medical professionals such as nurses, doctors and healthcare practitioners to provide an all round care plan for patients.
- Liaising with other healthcare professionals if a patient’s care spans various areas of medical expertise.
- Keeping on top of changes to research or new studies, making changes to patient treatment plans based on new research where relevant.
- Referring patients to other hospitals or units if they require specialist or cutting edge treatment offered by a particular hospital.
Cardiologist salaries within NHS cardiology are based upon the Agenda for Change pay framework.
All doctors begin their work in the NHS in foundation training, where you’ll earn £29,384 - £34,012. Once you have completed your foundation training and are a fully qualified doctor, you’ll be eligible to apply for a specialism like cardiology.
Once you begin your specialist cardiology training, expect to earn a minimum of £40,257. On completion of your cardiology training, you’ll be considered a consultant cardiologist, earning £84,559 - £114,003.
If you choose to become a private cardiologist outside of the NHS, your salary could look different. This will be based upon your area of work (the closer to London you are, the higher your salary is likely to be) as well your areas of specialism.
In order to become a cardiologist, you must follow a clear set pathway of medical training. This begins with a medical degree, usually lasting 5 years. You’ll need to have GCSEs including English, maths and sciences, and 3 A Levels in order to apply. Your A Levels will usually need to be at A* and A grades, including chemistry and sometimes a combination of biology, physics or maths. If you already hold a degree in a relevant scientific subject, you could study Graduate Entry Medicine, a compressed 4 year course. You will also need evidence of time spent shadowing or observing in a medical setting, or one providing patient care. You will also be eligible for either the NHS bursary or the NHS Learning Support Fund.
On completion of your medical degree, you will begin foundation training with an NHS trust as a junior doctor. This lasts two years and involves working on six different medical placements across hospital and external sites, such as GP surgeries. During this time it is expected that you’ll begin to work out what you would like your area of specialty to be.
On completion of your foundation training, you will become a fully qualified doctor. You’ll then need to register with the General Medical Council (GMC). At this point, you are eligible to apply for specialist training in cardiology. This training lasts at least eight years, though can be extended to fit around personal circumstances, such as medical conditions or needing time out to raise a family. On completion of your cardiology training, you will be a consultant cardiologist.
Training and development
The training and development required to be a cardiologist is extensive, as outlined in our qualifications section. Once you become fully qualified as a cardiologist, though, the training continues. In order to retain status with the GMC, all doctors must complete 250 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every 5 years, averaging out at around 50 hours per year. CPD hours are calculated in a variety of ways, although common forms of CPD include shadowing senior staff members, attending research seminars, carrying out and publishing academic research, and attending conferences. You will usually be expected to keep a detailed record of your CPD activities.
To apply for a medical degree, you will usually need evidence having spent time in a medical setting.
Many cardiovascular doctors also apply for membership of the British Cardiovascular Society. Membership offers further opportunities for learning, CPD, and networking.
Your skills as a cardiologist combine excellent knowledge, surgical and procedural skills, and patient empathy. These include:
- Holding a robust knowledge of the cardiovascular system, its common diseases, conditions and complications.
- Keeping up to date with relevant treatments, procedures and surgeries that your patients will need.
- Excellent diagnostic skills.
- Ability to make well thought out but fast judgements in patient care.
- Ability to work well within a multidisciplinary team of cardiologist nurses, paramedics, doctors and healthcare practitioners.
- Excellent written communication skills for recording patient notes.
- Excellent verbal communication skills for passing on detailed information to other practitioners, triaging patients, and passing on medical information to patients on their conditions in caring, understandable way.
- Resilience, especially when caring for critically ill patients and communicating with families.
- Excellent time keeping skills for managing outpatient units, cardiology wards and triaging patients in accident and emergency units.
- Ability to work quickly and efficiently.
- Ability to work under high levels of pressure - especially when treating medical emergencies.
- Leadership skills - you’ll often be the most senior member of staff on a cardiovascular unit, so you’ll need to be good at managing staff while maintaining a safe and world class care environment.
- An excellent bedside manner.
- Excellent organisational skills - you’ll be managing multiple caseloads across multiple departments, and you’ll need to switch between these patients quickly and effectively.
To apply for a medical degree, you will usually need evidence having spent time in a medical setting. If you have contacts in a hospital setting already, make use of them - reach out and ask if you can shadow a medical team. It can be a challenge to access shadowing time in specialist areas of work, especially if they span emergency medicine, so don’t worry if you aren’t able to shadow a cardiovascular specialist directly.
If you do not know anyone already in an NHS setting, you could also reach out to trusts directly and ask to shadow practitioners. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in a hospital setting, either - you could shadow in community settings, such as GPs and pharmacies, or even in residential settings where residents require regular medical care, such as elderly residential homes.
Cardiologists work with patients at various points in their medical journey.
Once you are studying towards a medical degree, you could also get involved in cardiovascular societies if your university has one. These are usually made up of medical students who are interested in pursuing a medical specialist in cardiovascular medicine. You will usually have the opportunity to network and join conferences related to the field, which will be a fantastic opportunity to build your understanding.
Once you begin your foundation training, you may also be able to request a placement in cardiovascular medicine to build up you practical experiences of the specialism.
Your career prospects as a cardiology consultant are excellent. You will begin as a junior cardiologist during your specialist training, then build up to becoming a consultant cardiologist towards completion of your training. At this point you will have the chance to take on further specialisms within your cardiologist career, such as specialising in the treatment of particular diseases or particular patients, such as paediatric cardiology.
Many cardiology consultants also take on academic work, carrying out studies in their setting and submitting academic papers for publication. If you particularly enjoy the academic aspect of your work, you could teach on medical courses at university level.
- Cardiologist — Glassdoor.co.uk Retrieved 26 September 2022.