What Does a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse Do?
Cardiac catheterization, or heart cath, is the insertion of a catheter into a heart chamber or vessel. Catherization can be used as a diagnostic tool to investigate possible cardiac conditions or used as a form of treatment. A specialized subset of cardiac catheterization is coronary catheterization, which involves catheterizing coronary arteries. From angioplasties, valvuloplasties, to stent placements, catheterization procedures take place in state of the art labs. During a catheterization procedure, the catheter, or thin, flexible tube, is inserted into a vein in the patient’s leg or arm then moved into the arteries or heart. Cardiac cath lab nurses can also assist physicians in implanting pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibillators (ICDs). They must be good with technology and able to learn quickly. The majority of cardiac cath lab nurses work in hospitals and clinics, generally stationed in intensive care units and cardiovascular catheterization labs if they’re available.
How Can I Become a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse?
Cardiac cath lab nurses are registered nurses with a certification or advanced level experience in this discipline. Obviously cardiac cath lab nurses should also possess a high level of understanding and training in cardiac anatomy and physiology. Upon receiving a degree and license as a registered nurse and working for a specific period of time, those interested can participate in a hospital run cardiac cath lab training program if they’re available, then apply for a voluntary certification exam. The training program consists of classroom study as well as several hundred hours of supervised nursing experience in an actual cath lab. During this training the nurse will learn the differences between cardiac conditions and how to treat them. The length of these programs may vary by hospital or state, but generally can last up to six months. Be sure to only participate in certification exams that are approved of by your hospital, state or national certification board. Should a hospital led training program not be available, many registered nurses spend one to two years in the emergency room, intensive care unit or coronary care unit before they enter the cardiac cath lab.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse?
With heart disease on the rise in the United States, many more patients suffering from cardiac conditions are entering the health care system in need of specialized care. This fact coupled with the national nursing shortage leaves the future employment outlook very positive for cardiac cath lab nurses. According the National Center for Disease Control, nearly 1.5 million heart attacks occur in this country alone each year and more than 8 million Americans suffer from heart disease. According to one source, average annual salaries for cardiac cath lab nurses vary by geographic location and the nurse’s experience, but can range from $41,000-$63,500 per year. Also, cardiac cath lab nurses have the advantage of cross training with other departments which increases their expertise and marketability to potential employers. Obviously, the more knowledgeable a medical professional is about more medical disciplines, the more likely they will to receive a higher salary.