Arizona-Based School of Ultrasound Creates Career Opportunities while Boosting Heart Health

The Arizona Heart Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to fighting cardiovascular disease through professional education and public awareness, is offering a financing option that increases access to education for careers in cardiovascular health care. Through a collaboration with Meritize, a pioneer in financing solutions for skills-based education and training, the Foundation’s School of Cardiac & Vascular Ultrasound has helped more than 80 aspiring health care professionals access financing needed to complete the education required to become a cardiac or vascular sonographer.

“Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a preventable cardiovascular disease. Choosing a career in cardiovascular health—as a cardiac or vascular sonographer—is quite literally a life-saving decision,” said Paula Banahan, president and CEO of the Arizona Heart Foundation. “By making the financing for our educational programs more accessible, we can tackle the shortage of skilled health talent in our region. Expanding access to acquiring skills and education is essential for improving the quality of cardiovascular health diagnosis, prevention and treatment.”

Through an intensive 12-month program, the Arizona Heart Foundation’s School of Cardiac & Vascular Ultrasound training includes 6 months in the classroom, followed by 6 months of hands-on time next to a lead sonographer. The School of Cardiac & Vascular Ultrasound programs are designed to meet and exceed the minimum clinical clock hour requirements for certification as required by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). More than 90% of graduates receive offers of employment from hospitals and clinics across Arizona prior to graduation. These placements include hospitals like Banner Health, one of Phoenix’s biggest health care systems, that lost more than 30% of its sonographers during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women and for people of most races and ethnicities. Recent research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the incidence of heart attacks and stroke has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to fewer visits for routine medical care and declining diet and  exercise during the pandemic. In addition, COVID-19 illness can increase the risk of diseases of the heart and blood vessels for at least a year after diagnosis.

With an aging population and rising retirement and attrition rates in the profession, economists predict that demand for cardiovascular and vascular technologists and technicians will grow by 14% over the next five years. Careers in cardiac and vascular sonography offer wages higher than the median personal income in the U.S. and stable long-term career trajectories. Cardiovascular sonographers earn an average annual wage of $65,000, and diagnostic medical sonographers earn an average annual wage of $75,920.

The financing option offered through Meritize offers competitive interest rates and a pathway to cardiovascular health careers for School of Cardiac & Vascular Ultrasound students [we do not offer state or federal student aid]. Unlike traditional lenders that rely solely on FICO scores and other financial records to make credit and lending decisions, Meritize considers the full breadth and depth of an individual’s academic or military achievements to enhance credit evaluation and improve loan options.

“At a time when our healthcare workforce needs an infusion of new talent, we need to find ways to make careers in critical health care professions accessible to more people, health care careers accessible to more people,” said Chris Keaveney, founder and CEO of Meritize. “This is about helping more working learners access the education they need to prepare for fulfilling and well-paying health care roles that strengthen the quality of patient care and helping us build healthier communities.”

Founded in 1982, the Arizona Heart Foundation’s School of Ultrasound was one of few programs focused on cardiovascular sonography at the time that it was founded. Since its inception, the ultrasound program has placed hundreds of sonography professionals around the greater Phoenix area, and more recently throughout the country.  The program has grown to serve a diverse cross-section of students across Arizona and other western states, including veterans transitioning into civilian careers, STEM students from local high schools and colleges, and single parents looking for a new career path to support their families.

In addition to its educational programs, the Arizona Heart Foundation, through its 2022 Cardiovascular Initiative, offers complimentary  ultrasound scans across Arizona.

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