With 38 years in the perfusion industry, Tom Coley has seen a lot of change. And after 32 years with the company now known as SpecialtyCare, Coley, who is currently serving as VP of operations for perfusion services, has witnessed two major waves of perfusionist shortages. One shift occurred in the 1980s when more perfusionists were retiring than could be replaced by new graduates. And now, the pendulum has swung once again, with the largest group of perfusionists nearing retirement. This time, however, there are far fewer perfusion schools.
“At one point there were well over 30, almost 40 schools,” he said. “Right now, there’s only 16. So, there are fewer schools, they’re putting out fewer students, and we have more people retiring or leaving the profession.”
Part of the problem, Coley says, is perfusion is a very small profession, with just over 4,000 certified perfusionists in the country. And frankly, he said, a lot of people just don’t know what perfusion is.
“I think we have to move beyond the schools and back up into the colleges or the technical schools and start recruiting at an earlier age, or at least educating if not recruiting. We need to educate the folks as to what perfusion is.”
There is tremendous opportunity in the field, Coley says, especially with SpecialtyCare. Exceptional training, continuing education reimbursement, the opportunity to travel – these are just a few of the incredible benefits of working at SpecialtyCare. Another, he said, is the opportunity for advancement.
“There are a number of our region presidents, vice presidents of business development that started out as staff perfusionists and have worked their way through into a management role and then eventually into a senior management role.”