Cardiac RNs: Education, Experience and Careers

Heart disease is one of the major life threatening diseases facing Humankind. Every year millions of patients enter the medical pipeline for all stages of cardiac care. The patient demographics are not limited to older Americans, but can include patients of all sizes and shapes, ethnic backgrounds and age groups.

The field dubbed “Cardiac Nursing” embraces a variety of specializations, including

  • Cardiac Catheterization Nurse
  • Cardiac Rehab Nurse
  • Pediatric Cardiac Nurse
  • Vascular Nurse
  • Telemetry Nurse
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiac Clinical Nurse Specialist

As a few of their titles suggest cardiac patients may be treated in various types of environments: cardiac catheterization labs, vascular labs, and rehab facilities, to name a few.

Education for Cardiac Nurses

Cardiac nurses may often receive appropriate training once they begin work in a cardiac specialty. Various in-service training tools are used, continuing education credits required and required terms of orientation and precepting. Nurses come to the field already somewhat clear on what is normal and abnormal heart and cardiovascular function—the skills are part of an undergraduate nursing program at the Associates or Bachelors level.

Identification of normal and abnormal heart sounds is a key skill. Entry-level or new RNs may have the chance to snag a job on a cardiac floor in a hospital, where they learn the ropes of caring for cardiology patients at various stages of treatment by physician specialists. But the advised areas in which to start, if you’re interested in migrating later to a cardiac cath lab or pursuing your MSN, are Cardiac Care, ICU, and Emergency Nursing.

RNs with an MSN degree have the option to pursue Advanced Practice as a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner or Cardiac Clinical Nurse Specialist. Both these ultra-specialized RNs are prepared to care for cardiac patients and serve as administrators and leaders in almost any type of healthcare setting.

Where Cardiac Nurses Work

Cardiac RNs are utilized in many patient care environments, from hospitals to private practice. Advanced degreed RNs may work as leaders and administrators in mid- or upper-level hospital management, as educators, and as independent practitioners.

Cardiac RNs By Specialty

  • Cardiac Cath Lab (CCL) Nurses work in Cardiac Cath labs usually located within large hospitals. RNs that work in these patient care environments may have experience in critical care, emergency care or acute care. In the Cath Lab they get hands-on training in the various procedures performed and generally provide only immediate care for the patient during short-term procedures. Care is limited this environment, but responsibilities could vary based on hospital. Some CCL RNs ONLY care for the patient during the procedure, others do pre- and post-procedural care.
  • Telemetry Nurses work in conjunction with Cath Lab nurses providing close follow-up for cardiac procedures including monitoring, assessment, medication management and patient education.
  • Cardiovascular NPs and CNSs are Advanced Practice RNs trained at the graduate school level. Both are prepared to practice in a wide range of patient and non-patient care environments. In fact they may be instrumental members of administrative healthcare teams where they are able to leverage their unique patient care experience to sculpt more effective and efficient patient care paradigms and nurse practice flow. Curriculum in this specialty includes Advanced Cardiac Health Problems for Adults/Children, ECG/EKG Interpretation, Advanced Diagnostics and Assessment, Pharmacology and Medication Management, and Issues in Cardiac Nursing.

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