What Do Cardiac Nurses Do?
With cardiac disease being the #1 killer of adults in the United States, it should come as no surprise that cardiac nursing is a major specialty in the health care field. Whether it's working in the operating room or seeing regular heart patients alongside cardiologists, cardiac nurses play an important role in heart care.
Roles/Other Potential Roles
Cardiac nurses may take on two major roles in health care settings. First, they may help in the operating room. Heart surgery is one of the most common types of surgery in the United States, so it makes up a big percentage of operating room time at most hospitals. With special training in cardiac health, you may be able to assist cardiologists and surgeons in heart surgery.
You may also care for regular cardiac patients in a clinic setting, working alongside cardiologists to ensure for prompt appointments, accurate medication regimens and obtaininig vital signs and labs to monitor cardiac patients’ status.
Finally, many cardiac care nurses work in specialty units within healthcare or surgical facilities. Postoperative care for cardiac patients is intense, and is usually performed in the intensive care unit or cardiac care unit. You will be monitoring patient continually and provided highly specialized care to ensure that heart surgery was a success.
Responsibilities/Demands of the Job
The day-to-day responsibilities of your job may depend on what patients need, what emergencies arise, and what your supervising doctors require of you. You may see patients as they come in to see the cardiologist, take their information, and prepare them for their visit.
It's also likely that you may respond to cardiac emergencies in the emergency room or other areas of the hospital. This may lead to assisting during surgeries and other procedures. You may need to constantly draw on your specialized knowledge of heart defects, vascular disorders, and heart attacks, acting as a resource for patients, providers and family members.
Close monitoring of lab values, cardiac status, ECGs, ventilated patients and rigorous direct patient care activities are likely to be part of your job as a cardiac nurse.
Cardiac nurses are typically expected to be equally skilled with different types of heart defects, heart disease, and other heart issues. However, if you work with a doctor who specializes in one type of surgery or procedure, you may become highly educated in that area.
You may also combine cardiac nursing with the younger population, working in a NICU or PICU caring for babies or children with heart issues.
At minimum, you need an Associate's degree in nursing and a valid nursing license to work in cardiac nursing. Since this field of nursing requires highly-specialized knowledge, however, employers in your area may require a Bachelor's degree in nursing.
A Bachelor's degree in nursing, which lasts about four years, can provide you with the in-depth experience and training you need to work in the cardiac field. Choose a course that is accredited by your state's Board of Nursing to ensure you get a high-quality education.
You will also receive extensive education regarding heart specific procedures, conditions and nursing care. Plan on attending cardiac life-saving courses regularly, as this will be a mainstay of your role as a cardiac nurse.
After completing your nursing degree and passing the NCLEX-RN, you can apply for a nursing license in your state. This permits you to begin working as a registered nurse. After gaining experience in this field, you may also be able to pursue specialized certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
With specialized knowledge and experience, you may be able to claim a higher salary than a nurse with general experience and training. Go download your copy of our free Nurse Salary Guide to learn about cardiac nursing salaries and how this field ranks among nursing specialties!
Job Outlook for 2014 and Beyond
You may already know about the great job outlook for registered nurses! The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 19% increase in RN jobs between 2012 and 2022, which is higher than average when compared to other career paths.
Upon completing your Bachelor's degree and getting your RN license, you may begin working in cardiac nursing. You may need to shadow cardiac nurses while working in a more general nursing specialty. Once you've completed enough shadowing or training hours, you may be eligible for a cardiac nursing position in your facility.
Associations and Organizations
If you want to learn more about cardiac nursing salaries, check out our Nurse Salary Guide! Then you can look into local schools to start your education.