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Also known as cardiovascular nurses, coronary care nurses or cardiology nurses, cardiac nurses are registered nurses who attend to patients who are suffering from cardiovascular and heart-related conditions. When an individual is admitted to a hospital awaiting heart surgery or after a heart attack, they will spend most of the time under the care of a cardiac nurse. The cardiac nurse will monitor the person’s condition throughout their stay in the hospital, help them understand more about their condition, perform stress-test evaluations, and administer various medications. Cardiac care nurses play a crucial role in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart-related conditions.
Responsibilities and Duties
Cardiac nurses usually spend most of their time in intensive care units (ICU), operating theaters, surgery wards, cardiovascular intensive care units, as well as coronary care units. You might sometimes find yourself working in clinical research positions and cardiac rehabilitation centers. They work with patients who have heart conditions thus helping to reduce the risk of the condition.
Cardiac nurses might also be required to administer diagnostic tests as well as medications, assist doctors in performing prescribed tests and help to conduct and interpret lab test results of various cardiac tests. For instance, the physician may ask you to perform some tests known as electrocardiograms, popularly known as ECGs or EKGs. These tests are used to check the heart activity levels of an individual. They can be used to reveal the presence of conditions like a heart attack or heart rhythm issues.
Apart from providing care to patients, it’s also the role of cardiac nurses or cardiovascular nurses to educate and inform patients about their conditions and the best prevention methods. They act as the liaison between the doctor and the patient’s family. Most patients who require cardiac care usually have other health complications. Therefore, the cardiac nurse will work closely with doctors and other nurses in the facility to address those complications to help the patient improve.
Cardiac nurses can also be part of a team that is providing rehabilitation services for patients who are recovering from heart surgery or heart problems. The nurse will spend most of the time educating and guiding patients on diet, medications, and activity levels. They will also help with stress management, among other duties that they may be assigned. Cardiac nurses are usually part of a hospital’s emergency response teams. In case a patient experiences cardiac or respiratory within the hospital, an emergency will be called and cardiac nurses will be part of that team. As you can see, the roles, duties, and responsibilities of cardiac nurses are quite diverse.
Education and Training
If you would like to work as a cardiac nurse, it’s important to note that this career is quite stressful and highly demanding. It requires high levels of compassion and dedication. Furthermore, you should always be focused on prioritizing the needs of your patients first, and ensure they get everything all the care they require. This approach gives patients suffering from health problems the best chance of recovering and staying alive. But in some cases, the heart condition might be chronic, which means that the situation will not improve. In such situations, you will provide emotional and mental support to the patient, as they deal with those challenges. So, what skills do you need to handle the extreme demands of this career?
First, you must be a registered nurse, before you can be hired as a cardiac nurse. And to become a registered nurse, you will have to complete a nursing course, either a bachelor’s degree program, an associate’s degree or nursing diploma. Nursing diplomas are usually offered by hospitals and they are quite rare. Bachelors’ and associates’ degree programs, on the other hand, are more common and they are offered by universities and colleges. A bachelor’s degree will take a minimum of 4 years to complete while an associate’s degree program will take approximately 2 to 3 years. Make sure you undertake your nursing program in an accredited institution.
Some of the modules that you will learn during your undergraduate training include nursing physiology, anatomy as well as nursing skills. While most nursing schools offer almost the same modules, the specific courses that you will take will depend on the institution, the degree type, as well as area of specialization, this case cardiovascular nurse. The theoretical skills that you will learn in class will be supplemented with nursing practicums, where you will be trained to work with patients, doctors, and other registered nurses.
Once you finish your nursing diploma or degree program, you will then need to acquire a nursing license from your state. To acquire a nursing license, you will undergo an approved nurse training program and then pass the NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination. Some states might have some additional requirements.
Besides training and acquisition of a registered nurse license, all nurses who want to become cardiac nurses will have to acquire the necessary certification from the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine, popularly known as ABCM. This board offers 3 levels of certification for prospective cardiac nurses. The 3 levels include CVRN Level 1, CVRN Level 2 and CVRN Level 3. Level 1 certification is for non-acute cardiology care, level 2 is for acute cardiology care while the level three certification is for catheterization laboratory nurses.
The level of certification that you will receive will determine your designation and job responsibilities. As much as certification is not compulsory, it will set you apart from the competition, while increasing your employability. Before you qualify for any of these certifications, you must have an experience of at least 2 years working as a registered nurse. Also, you should have clocked at least 2,000 hours of clinical training in cardiovascular nursing. Cardiac care nurses are also required to have certification in basic life support and advanced cardiac life support.
Salary and Benefits
Cardiac disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Therefore, there is a high demand for professionals in this field in all parts of the country. According to information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cardiac nurses across the country earn a median wage of $62,450, which is significantly higher than what you would earn in other nursing specializations. The actual salary you will earn as a cardiac nurse will depend on your experience level, location, facility you, and most importantly, your education level. Cardiac nurses with advanced levels of education will definitely command higher rates.
The demand for licensed cardiac nurses has increased significantly over the last couple of years. And this trend is not expected to change any time soon. If you are passionate about following this career path, then nothing should stop you. There are numerous opportunities in coronary care units, intensive care units, operation theaters, cardiac medical wards, clinical research, and cardiac surgery wards, just to name a few.
As a cardiac nurse, you will be working closely with cardiologists and other healthcare professionals, to monitor people with heart conditions, provide cardiac healthcare and give people hope, who are suffering from chronic heart conditions. Working as a cardiac nurse can be an extremely rewarding career, as you will be saving lives every day. Therefore, go on, complete your nursing training, and then acquire the necessary licenses and credentials.