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What is a Cardiovacular Nurse

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 assessment practice.

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!

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