Every 36 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women of most ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, congestive heart disease, and high blood pressure are among the types of diseases that affect the heart.
In this article we will explore the following:
- What is a cardiac nurse?
- What skills does a cardiac nurse need?
- What are the education requirements?
- What is required for cardiac nurse licensure?
- What certifications are required?
- What are the job and salary outlooks for cardiac nurses?
What is a cardiac nurse?
Cardiac nurses serve on the healthcare teams that provide care for patients receiving treatment for cardiovascular conditions and diseases. These egistered nurses (RNs) receive special training and certification in the cardiovascular system. Cardiac nurses can work with cardiovascular patients to improve their health and carry out treatment plans following heart surgery.
What skills does a cardiac nurse need?
Cardiac nurses need more than technical knowledge about how the human body. They need specific training on the heart and how it works. They must also possess soft skills like communication, critical thinking, organization, and teamwork to succeed in their roles. A quick scan of cardiac nursing jobs posted within the last year reveals the following technical skills are in the highest demand:
- Acute care
- Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
- Critical care
- Life support
- Patient care
- Treatment planning
Cardiac nurses spend a significant portion of their time educating patients and their families about treatment plans and care options. To work in this nursing career, you must be comfortable communicating with others.
What are the education requirements?
Before you can work as a cardiac nurse, you must earn your registered nurse credentials. Nursing candidates have a few options for becoming an RN:
- Associate Degree in Nusing (ADN) program completed at an accredited nursing school. ADNs take between 18-24 months to complete and are usually taken at a community college.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program completed from an accredited college or university. This program takes approximately four years to complete.
- ADN to BSN bridge program helps nursing candidates with an ADN further their education. This program takes about 12-18 months.
- RN-BSN bridge program is for registered nurses looking to obtain a BSN. This option takes about 1-2 years to complete.
While an ADN is a minimum education required to work as a cardiology nurse, most employers prefer candidates with a BSN. Cardiac nurses who wish to work in higher education or cardiology research should pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Having an MSN also allows cardiac nurses to work independently of cardiologists and other supervisors when treating patients.
What is required for cardiac nurse licensure?
Once you have completed your ADN or BSN program, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Questions are selected based on each nursing candidate’s ability and specialty. You will have up to six hours to complete the test, which includes scheduled breaks. The NCLEX exam tests a nurse’s abilities, knowledge, and skills. Higher levels of cognitive abilities, like critical thinking and problem-solving, also are assessed. If you fail the exam on your first try, you must wait 45 days before you can try again.
What certifications are required for cardiac nurses?
Certification is not required to work as a cardiology nurse, but many employers prefer nurses who have acquired them. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers many certifications. Some of the more popular options for cardiac nurses include:
- Adult cardiac surgery certification (CSC) is for cardiac nurses who provide direct care to acutely or critically ill cardiac surgery patients in the first 48 hours after cardiac surgical procedures. They can work in cardiovascular surgery clinics and in post-anesthesia care units.
- Adult cardiac medicine certification (CMC) is a specialty certification for RNs who provide direct care to acutely or critically ill cardiac patients. Nurses who want to work in cardiac care units, heart failure clinics, intensive care units, and telemetry may find this certification gives them an edge over the competition.
- Cardiac rehabilitation nursing certification (RN-BC) is for cardiology nurses who wish to work with cardiac rehabilitation programs that help heart patients recover from surgical procedures and carry out treatment plans for various cardiac conditions and diseases.
- Cardiac vascular nursing certification (CV-BC) is an extremely specialized cardiac nursing certification. Nurses who wish to work in cardiac catheterization labs may wish to pursue this credential to make them more viable candidates for open positions.
- The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM) offers certifications for acute cardiology care, non-acute cardiology care, and catheterization laboratory nursing.
Eligibility criteria for each of these certifications vary, so be sure to review requirements before scheduling to take the exams. Most certification programs for cardiology nurses mandate at least 2 years of experience practicing as an RN and 2,000 clinical practice hours within the last 3 years. Many have requirements for continuing education as part of your original certification process and future renewals of your credentials.
What are the job and salary outlooks for cardiac nurses?
As with other nursing professionals, cardiac nurses are in high demand. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts demand for cardiac nurses will grow by 7% between now and 2029.
Demand does not always equal higher wages in some parts of the U.S. According to Indeed, the national average salary for cardiology nurses is $58,911. California (35%), Illinois (22%), Oregon (22%), and Pennsylvania (15%) pay the highest above the national average for cardiac nurses. South Carolina was the lowest-paying state for cardiology nurses at 50% below the national average.
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