A cardiology nurse is a specialized and advanced practice nurse who works with cardiologists and other medical professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients who have heart-related conditions. Cardiology nurses practice as highly specialized nurse practitioners. They often hold multiple specialty certifications relative to patient population or acute care.
Cardiology nurses possess advanced knowledge and experience that enable them to diagnose, treat and manage conditions affecting the cardiovascular system. They work day in day out to ensure optimal cardiovascular function among patients through preventive measures that involve screening, counseling as well as management strategies. All cardiology nurses must have a registered nurse (RN) credential, meaning they have to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination.
While a majority of cardiology nurses work in hospital settings, the demand for nurses in cardiovascular diagnosis, rehabilitation and long-term care has increased significantly. Some nurses may find work in cardiac rehabilitation centers and specialty clinics.
Salary for Cardiology Nurses
Cardiology nurses earn an average salary of $90,370 per year.
Since cardiology nurses start their career as experienced RNs, their beginning salary is slightly higher than what a normal registered nurse earns. Their beginning salary is $72,580 per year.
Cardiac nurses are expected to do the following;
- Assist cardiologists to record vital signs such as heart rate, temperature and breathing rate.
- Help doctors prescribe tests to help diagnose cardiac diseases.
- Conduct and interpret exercise stress tests, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, CT coronary cardiograms, amongst others.
- Help manage chronic heart conditions.
- Advice and provide moral support to patients suffering from cardiac conditions.
- Monitor cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators.
- Respond with an initial diagnosis to patients undergoing life-threatening cardiac emergencies.
- Administer medication and personal care to heart patients.
- Work alongside cardiologists whenever a patient is undergoing surgery.
In order to work effectively as a cardiac nurse, there are some skills set one must possess. A cardiac nurse must be someone who can work effectively with complex technology to diagnose, offer emergency care and monitor patients. Therefore, knowledge of computer and medical machines such as echocardiograms and ECG machines is a must. A cardiac nurse should be one who can think critically and reason using logic to provide alternative solutions, conclusions and approaches to cardiac problems. He must also be able to give full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand what they are talking about and asking questions whenever appropriate. Other essential skills include service orientation, ability to work under pressure and ability to make quick decisions.
Degree and Education Requirements
Those who want to work as cardiac nurses must first earn a nursing degree from an accredited institution and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. One can also choose to obtain a two-year associate degree in nursing and then register as an RN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the most ideal degree for aspiring cardiac nurses. The degree exposes students to courses such as microbiology, patient care, pathophysiology, acute and chronic illness management, population health and community nursing. The degree usually takes four years to complete and culminates with a six-month internship in an accredited hospital. Upon completion, students can register for the NCLEX-RN, after which they can obtain their RN credential.
Since cardiology is a highly specialized area, aspiring cardiology nurses are encouraged to pursue further education to improve their job prospects. Graduate degree options may include Master of Nursing or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Pros and Cons
There wouldn’t be more than 200,000 cardiac nurses in the US if the profession didn’t have some attractive benefits. Like other nursing professionals, cardiology nurses enjoy job stability and security. Apart from job security, the feeling cardiology nurses get when they help patients recover and live a normal life again is fulfilling. Not to mention, the job attracts very lucrative salaries and opens doors for career development. Some cardiology nurses earn up to $130,000 per year.
However, there are some challenges associated with cardiology nursing. Working in the cardiology unit is very intense and stressful. Sometimes one may be required to attend to patients from morning until late at night. One may also have to stand to for long hours assisting doctors during surgeries. The job also requires constant attention to detail and serving patients for many hours without any downtime.
Since nursing cardiology is a specialty area, one must gain some work experience as a registered nurse for at least two years. He then needs to gain exposure to cardiac nursing. This may mean working in cardiac care units and taking cardiology courses. Many colleges provide additional training to those who want to become cardiology nurses, including the American College of Cardiovascular Nurses.
Once he gains a considerable amount of experience, he can apply for a job as a cardiology nurse in any hospital. However, most employers prefer applicants who have certifications. The American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certifications in cardiac rehabilitation and cardiac vascular nursing. These certifications require at least two years of work experience and an RN credential.
Cardiac nurses work as specialized registered nurse practitioners, meaning their employment rate correlates with that one of nurse practitioners. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the demand for nurse practitioners, which include cardiology nurses, will increase by 31 percent through 2020 up to 2026. This employment rate is considered much faster than the national average rate. It is an indication that those who want to work as cardiac nurses or as any other nurse practitioner will get jobs faster.
The demand will be driven by the increased emphasis on cardiac preventive care as well as the increasing number of baby boomers in the country. Since baby boomers are more predisposed to cardiovascular diseases, more cardiologists and nurses will be required to provide treatment to this special group.
A cardiology nurse is a highly specialized nurse practitioner who works with a cardiologist to examine, diagnose, treat and educate heart patients. This job requires individuals who can make quick decisions, think critically and work under pressure. The job is potentially rewarding in terms of salaries and career growth.