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The Résumé Rx

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse: What They Do and How to Become One

Amanda Guarniere

The role of a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse is to assist doctors while also providing care to cardiac patients during the post-catheterization recovery period. These specially trained nurses assist the medical team and play distinct roles during cardiac catheterizations.

In this article, we will define a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse, as well as their duties and responsibilities, as well as the skills and education necessary to become one!

Table of Contents

What is a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse?

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses are working with patients who undergo cardiac procedures in a catheterization lab. These specially trained nurses assist the medical team and play different roles during cardiac catheterizations.

What Does a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Do?

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses play an important role in the cath lab care team. Their primary function is to provide assistance to cardiologists during the catheterization procedure. During the post-catheterization recovery period, a cath lab nurse assists doctors and cares for cardiac patients.

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses are usually only found in large hospitals and clinics. They are typically restricted to nurses who have specific practical experience and credentials in a specialty role. The Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Nurse must be a patient-care specialist in all aspects of the Cath Lab. They examine patients before the procedure and monitor their vital signs throughout.

Duties and Responsibilities

A Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse’s responsibilities and duties include the following:

  • Ensure that the patient’s consent paperwork is completed and filed in the patient’s chart.
  • Assisting with interventional procedures such as balloon angioplasty, stent placement, and rotation
  • Preparing patients for the procedure, which may include sterilization and shaving the areas where the catheter will be inserted.
  • Following the procedure, patients and families are given discharge paperwork and instructions that include information on medications, activities, and dietary restrictions.
  • Updating patient charts with specific procedure information.
  • Monitoring sedation levels during and after catheterizations to ensure a patient does not have an adverse reaction..
  • Following catheterization, patients should be checked for signs of infection or side effects.

How to Become a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse

A rigorous post-licensure program and clinical experience are required to become a cardiac catheterization laboratory nurse. Candidates with broad experience as a nursing generalist, as well as an eagerness to raise public awareness of cardiovascular disease signs and symptoms and promote lifestyle changes to lower risk disease markers, will be the most competitive.

Candidates must demonstrate aptitude and diligence in order to improve patient results in the vascular unit by increasing early detection of vascular disease and actively promoting a healthy lifestyle.

The first step for anyone interested in working in a cardiac catheterization lab is to obtain the necessary education and experience.

1. Education Requirements

To be competitive for job opportunities today, most candidates often have a BSN degree. In addition to an RN degree, cardiac cath lab nurses must obtain Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications.

Cardiac cath lab nurses are encouraged to pursue cardiac vascular nursing certification, but it is not required.

Become an RN

The first step should be to become a registered nurse. It is possible to achieve this by enrolling in an accredited nursing program and earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

Pass the NCLEX-RN

While becoming a registered nurse is the first step toward becoming a cardiac cath lab nurse, candidates must also pass the NCLEX-RN. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses serves only one purpose: to determine whether it is safe for you to begin practicing as an entry-level nurse. 

It is very different from any test you took in nursing school. While nursing school exams are knowledge-based, the NCLEX-RN assesses the application and analysis of nursing knowledge. You will be tested on your ability to use critical thinking skills to make nursing decisions.

2. Gain Experience and Connections

After becoming a registered nurse, you must gain experience in either a trauma hospital or a cardiac care center. RNs should connect with cardiologists and cardiac intensivists while working in these positions. These connections will pave the way for a smooth transition into the cardiac catheterization lab.

3. Certifications

 The credentials and experience listed here are intended to provide candidates and those interested in becoming CCL nurses with the best opportunities for professional development prior to obtaining the necessary certifications. While not widely required, nurses with a variety of relevant credentials may stand a better chance in a job interview.

Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification

Cardiac cath lab nurses are encouraged, but not required, to pursue Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers this certification to registered nurses (ANCC). RNs must meet the following requirements to be certified:

  • hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States, or hold the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country.
  • I have practiced the equivalent of two years full-time as a registered nurse.
  • have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiac-vascular nursing within the last 3 years.
  • have completed 30 hours of continuing education in cardiac-vascular nursing within the last 3 years.

Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN)

Cath lab nurses can also consider becoming certified as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN). The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses is in charge of it (AACN). Before applying for CCRN certification, registered nurses must meet certain requirements.

To be eligible for this certificate, you must have worked as an RN or APRN for at least 5 years and have a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care of acutely or critically ill adult patients. 144 of those hours must have been worked within the last year.

Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS)

A Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification is another certificate you can obtain to increase your chances of landing that job. The acronym BCLS stands for Basic Cardiac Life Support. BCLS certification teaches emergency life-saving interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, how to use an automated external defibrillator, and how to respond to a choking person.

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)

The Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification is the final one you can obtain. Earning this certification can increase your chances of getting the job you want. Advanced Life Support (ALS), also known as Advanced Cardiac Life Support, is a collection of life-saving protocols and skills that go beyond Basic Life Support (BLS). 

It is used to treat cardiac emergencies such as cardiac arrest, stroke, myocardial infarction, and other conditions that require immediate attention.

4. Keeping your CEUs up to date (selected states only)

Cath lab nurses must also complete continuing education units (CEUs) in order to keep their licenses in some states. Except for 13 states, all cath lab nurses must earn continuing education credits or contact hours every two years. Contact hours and CEUs focusing on cardiac care are required for licensure renewal.

Where can a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Work?

The cath lab nurse is commonly found in hospital settings, but they may also work some shifts in outpatient clinics. Shifts on the hospital floor are typically 8 or 10 hours long, 4-5 days a week, with the option of on-call hours as well. Some hospitals provide the standard 12-hour, three-day-a-week shift of other nursing positions.

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Salary

Cardiac cath lab nurses typically earn more than the national average. Because of the specialized nature of the work, it is difficult to substitute other nurses from other units, which raises the hourly wage.

Cath lab nurses earn an average of $35.46 per hour or $76,910 per year, according to Payscale.com. The lowest-paid nurses make around $61,000 per year. The highest annual salary was $97,000. Experience can also improve salary prospects.

What Should a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Know?

The cardiac care nurse and cardiac catheterization laboratory nurse both require advanced knowledge of the different heart rhythms. In both roles, you are required to use electrocardiography equipment frequently.

A cardiac care nurse provides direct care to the cardiac patient population and assists in the treatment of a variety of complex cardiac diagnoses. Responsibilities include caring for patients, both before and after cardiac surgery. They also provide care to patients experiencing moderate to severe symptoms related to cardiac disease.

What Makes An Excellent Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse?

An excellent cardiac cath lab nurse is a health care professional who can assist doctors and surgeons with certain heart-related medical procedures. One of the most common procedures they assist with is cardiac catheterization, which involves inserting a catheter into a heart vessel or chamber to diagnose heart diseases or ailments.

To be outstanding in this position, one must have the following skills:

Communication

Cath lab nurses must be able to communicate effectively in order to relay information to physicians, patients, caregivers, and other health care personnel.

Attention to Detail

Cath lab nurses must pay attention to small details when monitoring the patient’s vital signs and sedation levels and examining them for signs of illness. Staying acutely aware can also assist them in focusing on the causes of certain medical conditions, which can enhance the care they provide patients.

This skill is also used by cath lab nurses when arranging patient records and organizing their daily work schedules.

Stress Management

Cath lab nurses may be stressed during difficult medical procedures and care plans. Stress management skill sets may assist them in decompressing or relaxing. Some stress-relieving activities include:

  • Physical activity can include going for walks, practicing yoga, or engaging in other forms of exercise.
  • Spending time with friends or family is an example of social interaction.
  • Meditation can assist you in clearing your mind and relaxing your body.

Listening Actively

When taking orders from physicians or receiving important information from patients, cath lab nurses frequently use active listening skills. Cath lab nurses must pay close attention to what doctors tell them in order to provide patients with the appropriate treatment or medication.

Rationalization

Occasionally, patient operations necessitate quick decisions, and cath lab nurses may play a role in those decisions. In situations like this, a rationalization skill set may assist nurses in using clinical reasoning to make good judgment calls for their patients.

Schools that offer RN-to-BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs provide nurses with an easy way to advance their careers by allowing them to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing. There is always a need for highly trained medical professionals. Nursing is one field where qualified practitioners are in high demand.

They are not listed in any particular order, but each is near the top of nearly every list of accredited nursing programs compiled by students and medical accreditation boards. All of these institutions of higher learning have a good reputation and provide excellent services to their students.

Here are the five schools that provide RN to BSN programs:

Sacred Heart University

Website: www.sacredheart.edu

Location: Main campus, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT 06825

Enrollment: Sacred Heart University has 4,198 undergraduate students and a total enrollment of 6,249 students.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges

Tuition: There is a tuition fee of $500 per credit hour for a total of 123 credit hours; financial aid is available.

Curriculum: The RN to BSN program includes both a full on-campus component and a fully accredited online component; admission to this program requires a minimum of 30 transfer credits. On campus, students can also earn online certification in Home Health Care Management and Family Nurse Practitioner courses.

Unique Features: This program offers clinical leadership development as well as cutting-edge facilities. Malpractice insurance is required for students.

Drexel University

Website: www.drexel.com

Location: Attn: Applicant Services, RN-BSN Program, 3001 Market Street, Suite 40

Philadelphia, PA 19104

Enrollment: Drexel University has 15,047 undergraduate students and a total enrollment of 24,860 students.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Tuition: $569.00 per credit hour for a total of 180 required quarter credits; financial aid is available.

Curriculum: This program offers both a 100 percent online or a blended online and on-campus alternative.

Unique Features: It is ranked among the top 15 nationally by the U.S. News and World Report as one of the top ten emerging online universities. Employees of health system partners and community colleges have a special tuition plan, and other member partners have discounted tuition. RNs with a bachelor’s degree in another field can apply to the RN to MSN program for advanced studies.

Walden University

Website: www.waldenu.edu

155 Fifth Avenue S Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Enrollment: A total of 46,500 students from 145 countries were enrolled.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, The Higher Learning Commission; member of the North Central Association

Tuition: A $300 tuition fee per quarter credit hour is required for the 180 credit hours required for program completion. A $180 technical fee is assessed per quarter.

Curriculum: Fully online, evidence-based curriculum with great student support services.

Unique Features: Students will learn real-world applications on the job while receiving advanced technical support, a doctoral preparation learning facility, and a course taught by nationally recognized scholars.

Kent State

Website: www.kent.edu/nursing

Location: Main Campus, 108 Maac Dr., Kent, OH, 44242; College of Nursing, 113 and 216, Henderson Hall

Enrollment: Kent State has a total enrollment of 42,185 undergraduate and graduate students.

Accreditation: This program has accreditation from the Ohio Board of Nursing, the State of Ohio Board of Nursing, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Tuition: The tuition for the BSN program is $447 per credit hour for 122 total credit hours and 39 upper-division hours for graduation. There’s also a $75 per semester assessment for the program fee for 122 total credit hours and 39 upper-division hours for graduation. There’s also a $75 assessment per semester for the program fee. Financial aid and scholarships are available.

Curriculum: They offer a blended BSN/MSN program and the option of participating in online or on-campus degree programs.

Unique Features: Kent State University has the country’s largest nursing degree program. Kent State University has nine regional campuses, with the main campus in Kent, Ohio. Graduates of this program outperform the national average on the NCLEX.

St. Peter’s University

Website: www.saintpeters.edu

Location: Main Campus, 2641 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07306

Enrollment: Total enrollment is 3,045, with 2,344 of that number in the undergraduate programs; the average class size is 16 students.

Accreditation: This university is fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Tuition: The tuition is $730 per credit hour for undergraduate programs, or $30,320 total tuition, plus housing and meal fees. Financial aid is used by 98 percent of the students in the undergraduate degree programs; the average award is $20,000 per year.

Curriculum: At St. Peter’s, all programs are entirely on-campus. The RN to BSN transfer program provides the option of evening track courses for a two-year degree or a fast track program for a 21-month degree.

Unique Features: St. Peter’s is the only Jesuit college in New Jersey. Students must purchase and wear approved St. Peter’s clinical attire, which is available from the program department. Small class sizes, a high level of student services, and clinical experience are all available at the school.

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Career Outlook

Nursing jobs are expected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there is no exact number for the growth of cath lab nurses, is it safe to assume that the demand for cardiac cath lab nurses will be greater than this figure?

Cardiac disease is responsible for roughly one-quarter of all deaths in the United States. The number of cath lab procedures performed each year is increasing due to the aging of the baby boomer generation, as well as the rise of sedentary behavior and poor overall diets.

The National Institutes of Health in the United States estimates that over one million cardiac catheterizations are performed each year. As previously stated, this number will only increase, putting cath lab nurses in high demand.

FAQs About Becoming a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse

Can ICU nurses work in Cath Lab?

Yes, while it is not required, nurses who want to work as cardiac cath lab nurses should consider gaining cardiac ICU experience or stepping down to another unit.

Is being a Cardiac Cath Lab stressful?

It is a stressful job, especially during difficult medical procedures and treatment plans. That is why having good stress management skills is often required in this position.

What is the difference between a Cardiac Care Nurse and a Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse?

A cardiac care nurse provides direct care to the cardiac patient population and assists in the treatment of a wide range of complex cardiac diagnoses, whereas a cardiac catheterization laboratory nurse assists with the various cardiac procedures performed in the cath lab, ranging from simple diagnostic procedures to more complex interventions.

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