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How to Become a Cardiac Nurse

By Ajoke Aminu

Published:

Are you interested in the heart, but not necessarily in matters of love? A cardiac nurse specializes in caring for patients with various heart conditions, from coronary artery disease to heart failure. This article will outline how to become a cardiac nurse, and offer valuable insights into important factors, such as career paths that can lead to a higher cardiac nurse salary!

Career Summary

How Much Do Cardiac Nurses Make?

Cardiac Nurse Salary

Whether you’re just starting or already an experienced nurse looking to specialize in cardiac care, you may be curious about how much do cardiac nurses make. Well, you’ll be happy to know that the nursing salary can be quite lucrative, ranging from: 

  • Entry: US$86K
  • Median: US$113K
  • Senior: US$149K

We are happy to report that the average cardiac nurse salary in the US is higher than the national average income.

What Does a Cardiac Nurse do?

A cardiac nurse specializes in providing care for patients with cardiovascular conditions. They work closely with cardiologists and other healthcare professionals to assess, treat, and monitor patients with heart-related issues. Cardiac nurses may work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and cardiac rehabilitation centers, and they play a crucial role in promoting cardiac health, managing medications, assisting with procedures, educating patients and their families, and providing emotional support throughout the patient’s journey.

Cardiac Nurse Career Progression 

  • Cardiac Nurse: Entry-level or junior position where you provide basic cardiac care, monitor patients, and assist with routine procedures.
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner: Advanced practice role with the authority to diagnose, treat, and manage cardiac conditions, prescribe medications, and provide comprehensive care to patients independently or in collaboration with physicians.
  • Cardiac Clinical Nurse Specialist: Specialize in a specific area of cardiac care, such as heart failure or electrophysiology, providing expert clinical guidance, education, and support to nursing staff and patients.
  • Cardiac Nurse Manager/Supervisor: Take on a leadership position, overseeing a cardiac unit or department, managing staff, coordinating patient care, and ensuring quality standards.
  • Cardiac Nurse Executive/Administrator: Reach the executive level, where you have a leadership role in strategic planning, policy development, and overall management of cardiac healthcare services.
Cardiac Nurse Career Progression

Pros and Cons of Working as a Cardiac Nurse 

Pros:

  • Making a difference in patients’ lives by providing specialized care and support.
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary team to deliver comprehensive cardiac care.
  • Witnessing the progress and recovery of patients with cardiac conditions.
  • Staying at the forefront of advancements in cardiac healthcare.
  • Having opportunities for professional growth and development.

Cons:

  • Facing high-stress situations, particularly in critical care settings.
  • Dealing with the emotional toll of working with patients who may have life-threatening conditions.
  • Working long and irregular hours, including weekends and holidays.
  • Being exposed to physically demanding tasks, such as lifting and moving patients.
  • Navigating the potential challenges of complex patient cases and medical emergencies.

Essential Skills to Have as a Cardiac Nurse 

  • Strong clinical assessment skills.
  • Proficiency in interpreting cardiac rhythms and EKGs.
  • Effective communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to work well under pressure and make quick decisions.
  • Knowledge of cardiac medications, treatments, and procedures.

Popular Cardiac Nurse Specialties 

How to Become a Cardiac Nurse

Cardiac Nurse 4 Steps to Career

Step 1: Get an Education 

Put your curiosity to rest because when it comes to learning how to become a cardiac nurse, education is the crucial first step towards turning your dream into reality. With the right education and experience, you can become a valued member of any healthcare team as a cardiac nurse. Just as we have meticulously crafted the potential questions on your mind, we also have the right answers to address them all, so stick with us! 

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Cardiac Nurse?

Truly, obtaining a degree is typically required to become a cardiac nurse. The most common degree path is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This degree provides a comprehensive education in nursing and equips you with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in the field of cardiac nursing. While it is possible to become a cardiac nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), having a BSN degree may open up more career opportunities and advancement options in the long run. It is important to check the specific requirements of the healthcare organization or institution you wish to work for, as some may have specific educational requirements for cardiac nursing positions. 

Importance of Getting a Nursing Degree

Cardiac nursing requires excellent knowledge of the cardiovascular system and the ability to apply that knowledge to patient care. This education is invaluable for nurses who are caring for patients with complicated cardiac conditions.

Obtaining a cardiac nursing degree holds significant importance in the field of nursing because you will: 

  • Gain in-depth knowledge and skills specific to cardiovascular care.
  • Learn to provide precise interventions and monitor vital signs for patients with heart-related conditions.
  • Play a crucial role in educating patients about heart health and preventive measures.
  • Stay updated on the latest innovations in cardiac care technologies.
  • Work seamlessly with multidisciplinary teams for comprehensive patient care.
  • Open doors to leadership, research, and educational roles in healthcare institutions.
  • Ensure compliance with evolving healthcare standards and certifications.
  • Enhance attractiveness to employers in the growing field of cardiac nursing.
  • Demonstrate commitment to continuous learning and excellence in patient care.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Cardiac Nurse?

It requires a dedication to learning, as well as a commitment of 4-6 years of education. That may seem like a long time, but it’s essential to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to care for patients with heart conditions. The duration can vary depending on the chosen educational path, and keep in mind that this choice can have a significant impact on the salary earned. 

Clearly, becoming a cardiac nurse is not for the faint of heart. Pursuing an associate degree in nursing program or a bachelor of science in nursing program are two paths you can take to become a cardiac nurse. After completing the required education, gaining experience in an acute healthcare facility is essential for cardiac nurses. Once you’ve gained enough experience, you can then pursue additional specialization in cardiovascular nursing certification.   

How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

Delving into the question “How much do cardiac nurses make?” is fun but it is essential to consider the expenses involved before you can fully enjoy the benefits of a cardiac nurse salary. Nursing school costs are relatively expensive with public institutions averaging US$3,500, making them a more budget-friendly option. However, those looking for a more immersive experience may opt for the tuition, room, and board which is nearly US$12,000

Private institutions may be pricier with an average tuition cost of US$15,470, but the room and board cost of around US$10,000 makes for a memorable and well-rounded college experience—depending on your outlook, of course. So, whether you prefer to pinch your pennies or prioritize a plush dorm room, there’s a nursing school option out there for you. Otherwise, you can consider different types of financial aid to offset the burden.

Can I Learn How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Via Online Courses?

Do you dream of becoming a cardiac nurse, but are limited by time and location? Fortunately, it is possible to become a cardiac nurse through online education. Many accredited universities and colleges offer online nursing programs that provide the necessary coursework and clinical experiences to become a qualified cardiac nurse. These online programs typically include a combination of online classes, virtual simulations, and in-person clinical rotations at approved healthcare facilities. 

It is important to ensure that the online nursing program you choose is accredited by the appropriate nursing governing bodies to ensure that you receive a quality education and are eligible for licensure as a cardiac nurse. With the advancements in technology and the flexibility of online learning, pursuing a cardiac nursing degree online can be a convenient and accessible option for individuals who require flexibility in their education journey. 

Step 2: Learn More

As a cardiac nurse, there is no room for complacency. The human heart is a complex vital organ, and new research discoveries and innovative technology keep popping up. To stay relevant, you must keep learning to provide patients with the utmost care and support. So, be like the heartbeats you monitor daily, always in a constant rhythm of learning. 

License

Specific licensure requirements vary by state, but the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has singled out some typical checkboxes. To make the cut, you must graduate or be eligible to graduate from an approved pre-licensure RN or LPN/VN nursing education program. Registered Nurse (RN) License is the foundational license required to practice as a nurse. The cost of obtaining an RN license varies by state but typically ranges from $100 to $300, including application fees and examination costs.

Also, you must successfully pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination, which is no easy feat. And in some states, you’ll even have to go through a criminal background check (which might be somewhat easier).

So, if you have what it takes to care for patients with cardiovascular disease, make sure you’re up-to-date on your state’s specific licensure requirements before diving into the cardiac nursing world. 

Certifications

Several certifications can enhance the skill set and knowledge of a cardiac nurse:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification: BLS certification, often provided by organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), is crucial for healthcare professionals. The cost of BLS certification courses can range from $50 to $100, depending on the training provider and location.
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification: ACLS certification is typically required for cardiac nurses working in critical care or emergency settings. The cost of ACLS courses can range from $150 to $300, depending on the training provider and location.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Certification: For cardiac nurses working with pediatric patients, PALS certification is often required. The cost of PALS courses can range from $150 to $300, depending on the training provider and location.
  • Cardiac-Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC): This certification, offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), validates specialized knowledge and skills in cardiac-vascular nursing. The cost of certification exams can range from $375 to $500.
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) Certification: The CCRN certification, offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), focuses on the specialized knowledge and skills required in critical care nursing, including cardiac care. This certification demonstrates expertise in providing care to critically ill patients. The cost of the CCRN exam ranges from $230 to $370, depending on the AACN membership and exam type.
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation Certification: Cardiac rehabilitation certification is ideal for nurses who work in cardiac rehabilitation settings, helping patients recover from cardiovascular events or surgeries. Organizations such as the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) offer certification programs. The cost of cardiac rehabilitation certification varies depending on the organization and certification level.

6 Must-Visit Web Resources for Cardiac Nurse Skill Enhancement

  • American Heart Association (AHA): The AHA offers a variety of resources, including courses and educational materials focused on cardiovascular health and care. Their website provides information on CPR, cardiac conditions, treatment guidelines, and professional development opportunities.
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN): The AACN provides resources and educational materials specifically tailored to critical care and cardiac nursing. Their website offers access to clinical practice guidelines, certification programs, webinars, and other educational resources.
  • National Institute of Health (NIH): The NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) offers educational resources and research-based information on cardiovascular diseases. Their website provides access to guidelines, clinical trials, and educational materials on various cardiac conditions.
  • Medscape Cardiology: Medscape is a comprehensive medical resource that includes a dedicated section for cardiology. Their website offers medical news, articles, clinical updates, and educational content related to cardiology and cardiovascular care.
  • The American College of Cardiology (ACC): ACC’s website provides access to a wide range of resources, including clinical guidelines, scientific journals, educational events, and professional development opportunities. They offer a wealth of information on cardiology topics and advancements.
  • The Heart Rhythm Society (HRS): HRS’s website focuses on cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmia management. They provide educational resources, clinical practice guidelines, and research updates related to heart rhythm disorders.

Step 3: Practice What You Learn

It’s not enough to just read about new treatments and procedures– you have to put them into practice. That’s why it’s so important to practice what you learn. By incorporating new skills and knowledge into your daily routine, you can ensure that you’re constantly improving and providing the highest level of care possible. So don’t just learn and forget – put your knowledge to use and watch your patients thrive. 

Top Internship Opportunities for Cardiac Nurses 

For those looking to expand their knowledge and gain hands-on experience in this field, internship opportunities abound. From assisting with patient care to collaborating with other healthcare professionals, internships offer the chance to learn from experienced practitioners and build a foundation for a successful career as a cardiac nurse.

Take the first step towards learning how to become a cardiac nurse intern by considering these opportunities: 

  • Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) Internship: Work in a specialized cardiac ICU setting, providing care to critically ill patients with cardiac conditions.
  • Cardiac Step-down Unit Internship: Gain experience in a step-down unit, caring for patients who are transitioning from the ICU to a general cardiac care setting.
  • Cardiac Catheterization Lab Internship: Assist in diagnostic and interventional procedures in the cardiac cath lab, working alongside cardiologists and other healthcare professionals.
  • Electrophysiology Lab Internship: Learn about the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias, working with electrophysiologists and participating in procedures like ablations and device implantations.
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation Internship: Help patients recover and improve their cardiovascular health through supervised exercise programs and education in a cardiac rehabilitation setting.
  • Heart Failure Clinic Internship: Gain insight into managing heart failure patients through medication management, lifestyle modification, and patient education.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery Internship: Assist in the perioperative care of patients undergoing cardiac surgery, including pre-op assessment, intraoperative support, and post-op recovery.
  • Pediatric Cardiology Internship: Work with pediatric patients with congenital heart conditions, assisting in diagnostic procedures, medication administration, and family support.
  • Research Internship: Contribute to cardiac-related research projects, assisting in data collection, analysis, and literature reviews.
  • Community Outreach Internship: Participate in community health programs focused on cardiac prevention, education, and screening initiatives.
  • Cardiac Imaging Internship: Learn about various cardiac imaging techniques, such as echocardiography, stress testing, and cardiac MRI/CT scans.

Essential Cardiac Nurse Skills You Will Learn

You need special skills to make a profound difference in your patients’ lives, helping them recover from serious illnesses and regain their quality of life.

Here are essential skills to prioritize as you learn: 

  • Cardiac Assessment: Mastering the ability to perform comprehensive assessments of cardiac patients, including vital signs, auscultation, and interpretation of cardiac rhythms.
  • EKG Interpretation: Understanding and interpreting electrocardiograms (EKGs) to identify cardiac abnormalities and arrhythmias.
  • Medication Administration: Acquiring knowledge and proficiency in administering medications specific to cardiac conditions, such as antiarrhythmics, anticoagulants, and vasodilators.
  • Cardiac Monitoring: Learning to use and interpret cardiac monitoring devices, such as telemetry and bedside monitors, to assess and respond to changes in cardiac status.
  • Advanced Life Support: Developing expertise in providing advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) during emergencies, including managing cardiac arrest and other life-threatening situations.
  • Patient Education: Educating patients and their families about cardiovascular conditions, treatment plans, lifestyle modifications, and medication management.
  • Care Planning and Management: Developing skills in creating individualized care plans for cardiac patients, and coordinating and managing their care throughout the healthcare continuum.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Becoming adept at collaborating with interdisciplinary healthcare teams, including cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals, to ensure comprehensive patient care.
  • Wound Care and Surgical Site Management: Acquiring knowledge in caring for patients post-cardiac surgery, including wound care, monitoring for complications, and managing surgical site infections.
  • Patient Advocacy: Advocating for patients’ rights, ensuring they receive appropriate care, and promoting their overall well-being.
  • Patient Assessment Skills: Enhancing general assessment skills to identify and respond to changes in patients’ cardiac status and overall health.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Developing the ability to think critically, make quick decisions, and problem-solve in high-pressure situations.
  • Emotional Support: Learning to provide emotional support to patients and their families, understanding the psychological impact of cardiac conditions, and promoting coping strategies.
  • Continuous Learning: Embracing a mindset of lifelong learning to stay updated with advancements in cardiac nursing, new treatment modalities, and evidence-based practices.

Step 4: Choose Where to Work

When it comes to choosing where to work, cardiac nurses have a plethora of options available to them. The beauty of being a cardiac nurse is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to do your research, weigh your options, and follow your heart (no pun intended). Delve deeper to understand the options available to you. 

What are the Job Opportunities for a Cardiac Nurse

Cardiac nurses are an essential component of any cardiovascular medical team. Working alongside cardiologists, they provide specialized care for patients dealing with heart conditions and diseases.

Here are several potential career paths for cardiac nurses:

  • Cardiac Care Unit Nurse: Work in a specialized cardiac care unit, providing intensive care to patients with acute cardiac conditions.
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse: Help patients recover and improve their cardiovascular health through supervised exercise programs, lifestyle counseling, and education.
  • Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse: Assist cardiologists in performing diagnostic and interventional procedures, such as angiograms and stent placements, in the cardiac cath lab.
  • Electrophysiology Nurse: Work alongside electrophysiologists to diagnose and treat patients with cardiac arrhythmias, including assisting in procedures like ablations and device implantations.
  • Cardiac Surgical Nurse: Assist in cardiovascular surgeries, including coronary artery bypass grafting, valve replacements, and heart transplants, as a member of the surgical team.
  • Cardiac Clinic Nurse: Provide outpatient care in a cardiac clinic, assisting with patient assessments, medication management, and education.
  • Cardiac Research Nurse: Work in research settings, participating in clinical trials and contributing to the advancement of cardiac healthcare through data collection, analysis, and collaboration with researchers.
  • Cardiac Telemetry Nurse: Monitor and care for patients with cardiac conditions who require continuous cardiac monitoring in telemetry units or on general medical-surgical floors.
  • Cardiovascular Nurse Educator: Share your knowledge and expertise by teaching and training aspiring nurses, healthcare professionals, and the community about cardiovascular health and nursing care.
  • Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit Nurse: Provide specialized care to patients who have undergone cardiothoracic surgeries, such as heart and lung transplants or thoracic aortic repairs.
  • Heart Failure Nurse: Focus on managing and educating patients with heart failure, optimizing their medication regimens, and providing ongoing support and monitoring.
  • Telehealth Cardiac Nurse: Provide remote cardiac care and monitoring to patients through telecommunication technology, assisting with remote assessments, medication management, and patient education.

What Type of Companies Hire a Cardiac Nurse?

As a cardiac nurse, you can find employment opportunities in various healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals: Both large medical centers and smaller community hospitals hire cardiac nurses to work in specialized cardiac care units, intensive care units, cardiac catheterization labs, operating rooms, and other cardiac-focused departments.
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation Centers: These centers focus on helping patients recover and improve their cardiovascular health through supervised exercise programs, lifestyle counseling, and education. They often employ cardiac nurses to provide care and support to patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Cardiology Clinics: Medical clinics specializing in cardiology commonly employ cardiac nurses to assist cardiologists in providing outpatient care, conducting diagnostic tests, and managing patients with chronic cardiac conditions.
  • Cardiac Surgery Centers: Facilities dedicated to cardiac surgeries, including coronary artery bypass grafting, valve replacements, and heart transplants, hire cardiac nurses to be part of the surgical teams and provide critical post-operative care.
  • Academic Institutions: Nursing schools and universities with nursing programs often employ cardiac nurses as faculty members or clinical instructors to educate and train future nurses in cardiac care.
  • Research Institutions: Academic research centers, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare organizations involved in cardiovascular research may hire cardiac nurses to contribute to research studies, clinical trials, and data collection.
  • Home Healthcare Agencies: Some cardiac patients require ongoing care and monitoring at home. Home healthcare agencies may employ cardiac nurses to provide specialized nursing care, medication management, and patient education in a home setting.
  • Telehealth Companies: With the rise of telehealth services, some companies specialize in providing remote cardiac care and monitoring. These companies may hire cardiac nurses to provide virtual consultations, remote assessments, and patient education.
  • Government and Public Health Agencies: Government healthcare organizations, such as public hospitals, Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, and public health departments, often hire cardiac nurses to provide care and support to patients with cardiac conditions in a public healthcare setting.
  • Insurance Companies: Some insurance companies employ cardiac nurses in roles such as case managers or utilization review nurses, where they assess and coordinate care for patients with cardiac conditions.

What’s the Career Outlook for Cardiac Nurses?

According to recent data, the job outlook for registered nurses is quite promising. With a projected 6% growth from 2022-2032, it seems that the demand for specialized nursing care will continue to rise in the coming decade. This is great news for those who are passionate about the medical field and want to make a difference in the lives of their patients while also earning a cardiac nurse salary. 

In fact, cardiac nurses are uniquely positioned to provide vital support and care to those living with heart-related conditions, ensuring they receive the best possible treatment and outcomes. Thankfully, the cardiac nurse salary offers enough comfort, eliminating the need for extra income. So, if you’re considering a career in healthcare, becoming a cardiac nurse could be a wise and fulfilling choice. 

Cardiac Nurse Popular Career Specialties

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Cardiac Nurse? 

When it comes to the work-life balance of a cardiac nurse, it’s an ever-changing rhythm. The heart of a cardiac nurse’s work is centered around being there for others in their times of need. It’s a role that can be both physically and emotionally demanding, especially when it comes to managing life-threatening emergencies. 

While the job can sometimes be unpredictable, in many ways, the work-life balance for a cardiac nurse lies in your ability to keep a steady beat amidst the chaos. It’s about carving out the time and space needed to recharge, crack work-appropriate jokes, and take care of yourself, so you can continue to give your all to your patients. Whether it means getting a good night’s sleep or unplugging from work for a bit, cardiac nurses understand that tending to their own well-being is just as important as tending to the hearts of others.

Should I Become a Cardiac Nurse?

As you learn how to become a cardiac nurse, it’s worth noting that you can make an informed decision by considering several key points in this article. First, take into account the education and training required for the job– including the cardiac nurse salary, responsibilities, and job outlook. It’s crucial to have a strong interest in the intricacies of the cardiovascular system and a passion for providing quality care to patients with heart-related conditions.

Also, assess your interests and skills. Are you someone who thrives in a high-pressure environment with critical thinking challenges? Do you have a passion for helping others and a natural ability to empathize? 

You’ll also want to think about your long-term career goals, as becoming a cardiac nurse can open the door to a wide range of opportunities in healthcare and beyond. By thoughtfully contemplating these factors, you’ll be on your way to making the right decision for you.

Careers Related to Cardiac Nurse


Ajoke Aminu

About the Author

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