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Nursing School and Career: Cardiac Care Nurse

Nurses interested in cardiac medicine should consider specializing in cardiac care nursing. There is a shortage of nurses in general, but the shortage is particularly acute in nursing specialties such as cardiac care.

The American Heart Association reports that in 2004 nearly 80 million Americans were living with some form of cardiovascular disease. Roughly 1.5 million patients enter cardiac care units each year due to heart attacks. In light of the significant percentage of the population afflicted with cardiac related illnesses, the need for skilled cardiac care nurses is particularly dire.

WHAT IS A CARDIAC CARE NURSE?

Cardiac care nurses work with patients and the family members of patients who have contracted heart disease. They are often specialized nurses who work as part of a critical care nursing unit. Cardiac care nurses work mostly with patients at high risk of likely or actual life threatening medical problems. They draw upon their specialized education, skill, and experience to provide essential care to these patients.

Routine duties of cardiac care nurses may include:

Response to cardiac emergencies
Functioning as a liaison with patient families
Ongoing monitoring of cardiac patients
Development of individualized care plans
Administering medications
Providing relevant education to patients and families

 

 

Work Setting and Job Opportunities

The majority of cardiac care nurses work in hospitals. They usually staff a critical care or cardiac care unit, but may also work in intensive care units, cardiac catheter labs, telemetry units, progressive care units, emergency departments, or recovery rooms.

Cardiac care centers are usually found in large regional health care facilities. Because cardiac care is so extensive, many smaller hospitals do not offer cardiac care outside of emergency treatment.

Though hospitals are the most common work environment for cardiac care nurses, they do work in settings outside of the hospital. Common non-hospital settings include:

Cardiac Rehabilitation Facilities
Nurses work in these facilities as part of the patient care management team. They assist patients learning to live with cardiovascular disease by educating them and their families on medicine, medical procedures, and lifestyle modifications. They also supervise or assist with physician prescribed exercise programs.

Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities
In these type facilities, nurses work as part of the patient care model. They make regularly scheduled visits to patients, make recommendations on diet and exercise, monitor their medications, and suggest lifestyle modifications as needed.

Visiting Nurse Programs
Patients living with cardiovascular disease may require ongoing support and guidance from a cardiac care nurse. Nurses who work in one of these programs make routine visits to patients in their homes to monitor their health and check on their progress.

JOB REQUIREMENTS

Educational Requirements
Cardiac care nurses typically hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. There are, however, those who have two-year degrees with a combination of registered nurse (RN) licensure, on the job training, and direct experience in critical or cardiac care units. Nursing schools offer exposure to critical care, but the specialty education received by cardiac care nurses is usually provided by the employer.

Certification
Certification is not a mandatory requirement, but many employers prefer to hire certified nurses for this type of care. Certification is popular because it demonstrates a distinct level of knowledge and expertise that has been verified by a valid job related exam. To maintain certification, nurses must undergo a renewal process every three years which requires specific continuing education and clinical experience requirements. Nurses must have been in practice for a minimum of two years before being eligible to take an exam.

Advanced Practice
Nurses wishing to pursue advanced practice in cardiac care can pursue a critical care nurse specialist certification (CCNS). The American Association of Critical Care Nursing (AACN) is one certifying body that administers these types of certification exams which are required for licensure in advanced practice.

There are two common certifications pursued by nurses wishing to purse advanced practice in cardiac care. Cardiac Medicine Certification is a subspecialty designed for nurses who provide care for critically ill cardiac patients. Cardiac Surgery Certification is for nurses who provide advanced care to patients in the 48 hours immediately following cardiac surgery.

 

Nursing Salary & Compensation

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, median earnings for registered nurses, by industry, in 2006 were as follows:

Employment services $64,260
General medical and surgical hospitals 58,550
Home health care services 54,190
Offices of physicians 53,800
Nursing care facilities 52,490

Heart disease is one of the main causes of death in the United States, resulting in a in a high demand for cardiac care nurses. Recent technological and pharmaceutical advancements have further contributed to the need for qualified nurses to fill positions in this field. Nurses willing to gain the requisite education to practice in this specialty can look forward to a prosperous long term career.

 

 

 

 

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