If you decide to work in cardiac cath lab nursing, you’ll join a highly specialized field of medicine that can be both rewarding and demanding. Cardiac catheterization is the insertion of a catheter into a chamber or vessel of the heart. It can be used to diagnose or treat heart conditions. Cardiac cath lab nurses assist doctors in performing these procedures. However, as a cardiac cath lab nurse, you can specialize even further in coronary catheterization — procedures that involve coronary arteries and take place in state-of-the-art labs. In this specialty, you’ll have the opportunity to work with the latest technology in cardiac care.
The responsibilities of a cardiac cath lab nurse begin before the procedure and include educating the patient about the procedure, checking vital signs, and administering intravenous medication. During a procedure, nurses may operate medical equipment like ventilators, monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels, and assist the physician as needed. Cardiac cath lab nurses must be ready to intervene in the case of severe side effects or bleeding. After the procedure, they speak with their patients and families about aftercare and follow-up appointments.
Like any other nursing specialty, to work in cardiac cath lab nursing, you must graduate with either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited nursing school. You must also pass your licensing exam to become a registered nurse. Once you accomplish this, the real learning begins. This is because cardiac cath lab nursing is not a specialty where new graduates usually work. Most healthcare facilities prefer to hire nurses who have experience working in the cardiac care or intensive care unit. Nurses will need to have knowledge of cardiac medications and electrocardiogram monitoring experience. Most facilities also require cardiac cath lab nurses to become certified in advanced cardiac life support. After gaining experience, nurses may take an exam to earn the cardiac vascular nursing certification offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certification has to be renewed every five years.
Although many procedures performed in cardiac cath labs are scheduled during daytime hours, emergencies can require cath lab nurses to be on call around the clock. Cardiac cath lab nurses can work in private clinics, hospitals, and cardiac catheterization labs. As with most specialties in nursing, salaries will vary depending on years of experience, credentials and geographic area. The average salary for a cardiac cath lab nurse in 2013 was between $65,000 and $83,000 a year according to a survey completed by Springboard, Inc.
When you take on a travel assignment as a cardiac cath lab nurse, you’ll have the freedom to choose when and where you want to work. You can enjoy the challenge and rewards of the career paired with the flexibility and fun of traveling someplace new.
Are you thinking about travel nursing but still wondering which field is right for you? Explore our top travel nursing specialties to learn more: