A cardiology nurse, also known as a coronary care nurse, cardiac care nurse, cardiac nurse or cardiovascular nurse, is a nursing specialist dedicated to working with patients who are stricken by conditions that affect the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system.
When someone is admitted to a hospital after a heart attack or ahead of heart surgery, he or she can expect to interact extensively with a cardiology nurse far more frequently than the cardiologist.
A cardiology nurse helps keep a heart patient on course throughout a hospital stay and helps the patient understand everything that is to come after release and during recovery. In addition to practical information, a cardiology nurse often serves as a private cheerleader for a patient who is likely in unfamiliar emotional territory and could use a great deal of reassurance.
What Does a Cardiology Nurse Do?
Among the conditions that a cardiology nurse treat are unstable angina, cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction and cardiac dysrhythmia.
Cardiac nurses also work in pre- and post-operative care as part of a surgical unit, evaluate stress tests, perform cardiac and vascular monitoring, and other health assessments. Cardiac nurses may work in a number of different environments, including intensive care units (ICU), cardiac rehabilitation centers, coronary care units (CCU), cardiac catheterization, operating rooms, clinical research, cardiovascular intensive care units (CVICU), as well as cardiac medical and surgery wards.
In addition, cardiology nurses require several specialized skills including, but not limited to, electrocardiogram monitoring, cardio rehabilitation training, defibrillation and medication administration by continuous intravenous drip.
As mentioned above, a cardiac care nurse often is the most consistent source of information for patients. Cardiology nurses should be prepared to answer difficult questions about treatment, post-operative recovery and prognosis.
The job entails a high level of emotional strain, because many heart patients need a caretaker to make life-or-death decisions at any given time, night or day. It is a multi-faceted position and the complexities of the day-to-day work requires most cardiology nurses to maintain a consistent work structure and take care to focus on personal emotional and mental maintenance.
Cardiology Nurse Job Growth & Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for registered nurses was $68,450 in May 2016. However, a cardiac nurse, due to the specialty, not to mention advanced degree(s) and certification requirements, likely will earn significantly more in this high-demand field.
Cardiac care nurses work in coronary care units and intensive care units at hospitals, as well as at cardiac rehabilitation centers.
As with any healthcare career, salaries can vary widely depending on factors like geography, hospital size, experience, level of expertise and more. All candidates are urged to conduct their own research when considering pursuing a career as a cardiology nurse.
How to Become a Cardiology Nurse
To become a cardiology nurse, a registered nurse must complete Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification. In addition, according to the Campaign for Nursing, to become a candidate for a cardiac care nurse position, an RN must:
- Work as an RN for at least two years
- Gain a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience in cardiovascular nursing
- Take 30 hours of continuing medical education courses
- Take and pass the Cardiac Care Nursing Certification Exam
- Earn Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center
There are specialties within the cardiology nurse specialty, such as pediatric cardiac care, elderly care, surgical cardiac care and more. Cardiology nurse practitioners are trained to make in-depth assessments of a heart patient’s ongoing condition, and often work with physicians to help patients and their families understand long-term wellness after a cardiac event.