A cardiovascular nurse (CN) is a Registered Nurse (RN) who is a specialist in caring
for patients with diseases or illnesses involving the heart. They care for patients
with a variety of cardiac issues such as high blood pressure, myocardial infarction
or arrhythmia to name a few. By choosing to specialize, these nurses become experts
in the workings of the cardiovascular system and are able to provide exceptional care
to patients with cardiac disease or illness.
Cardiovascular Nurse Job Description
Cardiovascular nurses work in a variety of settings. They commonly work in the
hospital, either on a telemetry, or cardiac monitoring, unit or within the operating
room. They may also work in a cardiologist's office or out in the community providing
education to the public on topics such as heart disease prevention. Cardiovascular
nurses are often skilled in care of the critically ill patient and may work in a cardiac
intensive care unit. They are experts at taking and reading electrocardiograms and
also in utilizing cardiac monitoring. They are also skilled in monitoring blood pressures
via arterial lines and giving intravenous medications. Cardiovascular nurses perform
nursing assessments to monitor cardiac function of the patient, including listening
to the heart with a stethoscope. In the operating room, a cardiac nurse may assist a
heart surgeon in cardiac catheterizations, open heart surgery or heart transplant
surgery. All cardiovascular RNs are certified in Basic Life Support, and some are
certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Most nurses work twelve hour-long shifts,
and may have to work weekends, nights and holidays. Nurses who work in a cardiac
operating room are often on-call for emergencies.
Cardiovascular Nurse Training
Cardiovascular nurses are first RNs. They hold either an associate degree or bachelor
degree in nursing. Depending on the program of choice, study ranges in length from two
to four years. Regardless of the degree earned, all RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and
obtain licensure in their respective state. All nursing programs include coursework
focusing on the cardiovascular system, as it is essential to life. Some of the first
nursing skills learned in school are the taking of a blood pressure or listening to
the heart in order to help assess the function of the cardiovascular system. Nursing
programs also address the effects of certain classes of medications on the function of
the heart and the cardiovascular system. Clinical rotations provide hands-on cardiovascular
At most hospitals, new graduate nurses who have an interest in cardiac nursing may apply
to work on the telemetry unit. To work in a cardiac intensive care unit, nurses are
preferred to have previous experience working with cardiac patients. In addition, nurses
that are new to the cardiac intensive care unit are often given additional training by
the hospital including classroom instruction and working with an experienced preceptor.
Nurses who are interested in the surgical side of cardiac nursing can get additional on-the-job
training to learn to aide in cardiac surgical procedures.
Opportunities For Nursing Career Advancement
All nurses have the option to earn a graduate degree and become an advanced practice
nurse, and cardiovascular nurses are no exception. While there is no specific cardiovascular
nurse practitioner program, there are some that offer a focus in cardiology. Other programs
that may offer more focus on cardiology include the adult/gerontology and acute care nurse
practitioner programs. Programs are generally two to three years in length regardless of
specialty. Once training in completed, there is an available cardiovascular nurse practitioner
certification available through the American Board of Cardiovascular Medical Credentialing.
Some states require that nurse practitioners be nationally certified to practice, and that
trend seems to be spreading to the remaining states. In 2012, the salary range for a
cardiovascular nurse practitioner was $66,235 to $109,330.
Cardiovascular Nurse Salary
The pay for cardiovascular nurses ranged from $41,050 to $79,481 in 2012. Nurses
working on a telemetry or cardiac intensive care unit generally make less than nurses
who work in the operating room assisting with specialized cardiac surgeries. Pay also
varies based on years of experience, geographic location of employment and relevant
training and expertise. Cardiovascular nurses have the option to become certified, and
those that do may be able to command higher pay.
Cardiovascular nursing can be a rewarding and challenging career. As the heart is so
essential to life, these nurses frequently encounter life and death situations. Given
the highly variable nature of their job, cardiovascular nurses have to be quick on their
feet and confident in their skills. These nurses can be rewarded by seeing patients
improve by leaps and bounds after having a heart attack or cardiac surgery. Conversely,
they may have a particularly stressful shift after caring for a critically ill patient
with complex cardiac issues. For a nurse who has a passion for the heart and vascular
systems and enjoys caring for patients with complex health issues, cardiovascular
nursing may be the right choice!