Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse

A cardiac catheter laboratory nurse (aka cath lab nurse or cardiac cath lab nurse) helps treat cardiac patients, working closely with a cath lab team. Cath lab nurses work in cardiac units, intensive care units, or in an outpatient clinic where catheterizations are done for cardiac patients. Catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that patients often undergo before getting a pacemaker, defibrillator, or angioplasty. During a catheterization, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to the heart, so that the physician can perform treatments or diagnostic tests on the patient’s heart. Some duties of cath lab nurses might include prepping the patient and the room, assisting the physician during the procedure, monitoring the patient and their vitals, and assisting in their recovery and continuing to ensure that they are stable. Like many nurses, cath lab nurses are also often responsible for communicating with the patient and their family, educating them about the procedure, answering questions, and offering comfort.

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This is a specialized nursing position, and to practice as a cath lab nurse you will need to be a currently licensed, registered nurse with additional training and some nursing experience. Certification through the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine’s Board Certification Opportunities is also highly preferred and recommended.

To first become a registered nurse, you should pursue an accredited nursing program and earn either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) takes two to three years. This is a fast path toward becoming a registered nurse, and it can later be applied toward a four-year bachelor’s degree. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) will help make you more competitive for the most desirable and higher paying nursing positions. Also, if you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a different field of study and want to pursue nursing, some nursing schools have accelerated nursing programs. No matter what nursing program you choose to enroll in, they will include studies in the sciences, health care techniques as well as clinical training time. Science related courses will include microbiology, psychology, biology, anatomy, nutrition and physiology. Cath lab nurses in particular will need additional knowledge of cardiovascular systems and the heart, which can be gained through elective courses, work experience and certification. Passing the NCLEXX is the final step in most states prior to receiving a nursing license and eligibility to practice as a Registered Nurse. Because the technology in the cardiac and nursing field is always changing and evolving, a cath lab nurse will have to be committed to continuing education to stay current with developments and learning. Some nurses enter this specialty after working in a critical care unit nursing, or working in telemetry nursing.

Cath Lab Nurse Certification

The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine offers various certifications for nurses working in cardiovascular related fields including the cath lab. The CVRN Level I certification is designed for nurses working in the cath lab holding area and the CVRN Level II is designed for cath lab nurses working in the cath lab. As with certification in any nursing specialty, certification demonstrates a commitment to the cath lab field as well as advanced knowledge that employers are looking for, which can lead to career advancement and higher pay.

Cath Lab Nurse Salary

Average salary estimates for a cath lab nurse range from $63,000 to $83,000. Salary for any specialty will always vary depending on your geographic location, certification, education, and years of experience. But specialized nurses like cath lab nurses generally enjoy a higher salary, especially as they gain more work experience. The outlook for the cath lab nursing path is also very good. Most people are aware of nursing shortages, as the aging baby boomer population strains the healthcare workforce and many nurses approach retirement the demand for nurses will grow. This demand for nurses is projected to continue for many years. The cath lab nursing specialization in particular will always need qualified nursing help, as the rates of heart disease continues to climb. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. So if you want to make a difference in an important area of healthcare, get your nursing degree now and begin your path toward becoming a cath lab nurse.

(Sources: CDC – Center for Disease Control, CCI- Cardiovascular Credentialing International)