What does a Clinical Perfusionist do?

The Australian and New Zealand College of Perfusionists (ANZCP) website states that Perfusionists operate the heart-lung bypass machine generally during heart surgery to maintain safe and stable patient circulation while the heart is stopped for surgical repair.  The patient is said to be on cardiopulmonary bypass.  Perfusionists may operate such equipment during any medical situation where it is necessary to support or temporarily substitute for the patient’s heart and lung function.


So, this machine takes over the work of the heart in replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen and pumping the oxygenated blood around the body; it also replaces the lungs in controlling the patient’s breathing.  Once the machine is set and the blood is passing through, the Perfusionist controls the equipment as it takes over the work of the patient’s heart, monitoring oxygen levels in their blood and the patient’s breathing.


Perfusionists work in operating theatres in public and private hospitals.  Their main work is performed within a cardiac operating theatre, but they also work in Intensive Care Units, General, Orthopaedic, Vascular and Neurosurgical Operating theatres, Cardiac Catheter Laboratories and Research Laboratories.  Importantly, Perfusionists need to be good communicators and team workers who are able to stay calm under pressure.


In order to practise, Perfusionists must meet the following entry requirements –

  • complete a Bachelor Degree in Science – with major studies in biology, chemistry, anatomy or physiology

then study further to obtain specialised training in perfusion theory and practice through the ANZCP and pass an examination
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