How to Become a Cardiac Care Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Requirements

Nurse speaks with woman near MRIA cardiac care nurse has special postgraduate education or experience in taking care of patients with heart disease or other cardiovascular problems associated with the heart and veins. A cardiac nurse is sometimes called a cardiology nurse, cardiovascular nurse or cardiac-vascular nurse.

Cardiac care nurses work in a few settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics and doctor offices. These institutions offer a comfortable work environment, good pay and frequently offer continuing education opportunities. Armed with advanced training in cardiovascular medicine, there are an increasing number of career opportunities for cardiac care nurses.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Cardiac Care Nurse
Education Requirements
Career Options
Cardiac Care Nurse Certification
Professional Organizations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information on cardiac care nurses, but the website does publish an overview of registered nurses. Salary information courtesy of Salary.com.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Minimum Education Required Associate degree
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Annual Salary $67,957
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov and Salary.com http://www.salary.com.

How to become a Cardiac Care Nurse

To become a cardiac care nurse, one must first:

  • Have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Pursue voluntary certification in cardiac care nursing

Education requirements

Candidates will already have graduated nursing school and passed board examinations to become a registered nurse. RNs may take advanced courses in cardiac care.

Job description

Cardiac care nurses perform stress test evaluations, cardiac and vascular monitoring, health assessments, electrocardiogram monitoring and care for patients who have undergone various heart procedures, according to the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, a Johnson & Johnson website.

Cardiac care nurses work in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) or Cardiac Care Units (CCUs) in hospitals, outpatient cardiac treatment or rehabilitation units and assist cardiologists at doctor offices. Nurses who work in hospitals can expect to work evenings, nights, weekends and holidays, while cardiac care nurses working in outpatient settings usually work normal business hours.

A cardiac care nurse must have an analytical mindset that enables him or her to quickly assess changes in a patient’s condition and respond appropriately. The cardiac care nurse must be empathetic and compassionate toward critically ill patients and their families but remain calm during medical emergencies.

In hospital settings, cardiac care nurses report to the head nurse of the cardiac care unit. Cardiac care nurses working in doctor offices report to a cardiologist.

Career options

Cardiac care nurses typically work in:

  • Hospital Cardiac Care Units (CCU)
  • Hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU)
  • Doctor offices, especially cardiology offices
  • Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs
  • Outpatient Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories

Cardiac care nurses may also care for heart patients in other settings not specializing in cardiac care, such as hospital medical floors or outpatient rehabilitation centers.

While BLS does not provide statistics specific to cardiac care nurses, the site does detail the job outlook for registered nurses. BLS predicts employment of RNs to grow 19 percent through 2022, which is much faster than for all other occupations.

Demand for registered nurses in general, and cardiac care nurses specifically, will grow for a number of reasons. Americans are living longer than ever, and cardiac problems are common among the aged. Cardiac care nurses specialize in treating patients with cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Nurses with advanced degrees, such as cardiac care nurses, will enjoy better prospects than will nurses without special training.

BLS expects growth of outpatient clinics and ambulatory care centers, where cardiac care nurses can sometimes work, to continue as medical professionals perform an increasing number of technical procedures outside of hospitals.

There are no statistics currently available for cardiac care nurses pay ranges, but the median annual wage for RNs was $65,470 in May 2012. Because of their advanced training and responsibilities with critically ill patients, critical care nurses often earn more than other RNs.

Certification information

While board certification is not necessary to work as a cardiac care nurse, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers testing and board certification to registered nurses who demonstrate special skills in caring for heart patients. ANCC awards the RN-BC credential to nurses who pass the applicable certification exams.

Cardiac care nurses must renew ANCC certification every five years.

RNs interested in earning ANCC certification must work with heart patients in hospitals, doctor offices, and outpatient clinics for at least 2,000 hours within three years before applying for cardiac nurse board certification. Candidates must also log 30 hours of continuing education within that three-year timeframe.

Professional organizations

Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association: http://pcna.net/
Society for Vascular Nursing: http://www.svnnet.org/
American Association of Heart Failure Nurses: http://www.aahfn.org/