Working Under Pressure: Certified Hyperbaric Technician

A jack-of-all trades

Working as a certified hyperbaric technician (CHT) at a large multiplace facility offers many challenges. Quite often, the CHT is required to perform many different duties. A good CHT must be able to wear many hats, from chamber operator, to systems engineer, to acting as an inside tender assisting patients in the chamber during treatments. Having the ability to multitask, while being able to stay focused, is an important and necessary skill.

"Over the last 13 years that I've worked at Duke, I have become a certified welder, a machinist, and have also learned computer aided design," said Eric Schinazi, CHT at Duke University Medical Center. "Since Duke is an older facility, with a strong preventative maintenance program, I have been able to put these skills to good use."

Research is also a major component for many CHTs, who may be responsible for designing and fabricating equipment necessary to conduct a variety of research studies. Some of the studies that have been conducted at the Duke chamber include flying after diving for DAN, oxygen pre-breathing protocols prior to EVA (spacewalk) for NASA as well as and diving and high-altitude research for the military.

Training to become a hyperbaric technician is quite different than other healthcare professions. The certification is not an entry-level qualification. It is an additional certification beyond the applicant's qualifying profession. Individuals interested in training to become a certified hyperbaric technician typically have education and work experience in a medically-related field. According to the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology (NBDHMT), qualifying fields include a respiratory therapist, diver medic, physician assistant, corpsman, emergency medical technician, paramedic, registered nurse, physician or a life support technician, among others.

To be certified as a CHT, individuals must complete an approved NBDHMT introductory course and maintain the training and education requirements of their original, qualifying vocation. Individuals seeking CHT certification must also undergo a minimum clinical internship of 480 hours of undersea, hyperbaric or aviation medical technology. During this internship, the CHT candidate learns the various chamber systems, standard and emergency operating procedures, safety protocols and patient care in a hyperbaric environment. Also required are 12 continuing education credits every two years, six of which must be devoted to undersea, hyperbaric or aviation medicine. In order to be approved for recertification, an employer, medical director or administrator must provide a letter of recommendation and verification of at least 100 hours of continuing experience in the hyperbaric discipline.

"It is a job that requires a passion for continual learning and versatility," Schinazi said. "But as a CHT, you have the opportunity to participate in an environment unlike any other in the medical field."
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