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What Does a Cardiac Nurse Do?

Cardiac nurses are often in charge of giving medication to heart patients.
Cardiac nurses check on and change patients' IVs when necessary.
Cardiac nurses monitor stress tests in patients who have heart problems.
A cardiac nurse needs excellent communications skills when dealing with patients and caregivers.
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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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Cardiac nurses care for patients who have heart problems. For example, while working with a cardiologist, these nurses might help treat patients who have heart problems, such as congestive heart failure, cardiac dysrhythmia, myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, or angina-related problems. In addition, the nurse might also be involved in doing stress tests, heart monitoring, general health assessment, or postoperative care. Cardiac nurses also do tasks such as monitoring of electrocardiograms, defibrillation, and giving patients medication via intravenous drips.

People work as cardiac nurses in many different settings. For example, they might work in intensive care units (ICU) in hospitals, cardiac rehabilitation units, coronary care units (CCU) in hospitals, catheterization labs, or other heart-related medical settings. Some nurses might choose to work as professors in nursing schools or medical schools. Scientific companies also employ them in medical research.

In order to become a cardiac nurse, a person usually needs a four-year nursing degree to first become a registered nurse. Pursuing a nursing major can be competitive, and in order to distinguish themselves from the competition, students may need to earn a high grade point average (GPA). Many prospective employers will want to see a high GPA because it shows that the student has the ability to learn the medical concepts needed to successfully function on the job as a nurse.

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People who work in this field must get certification in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). Basic Life Support helps health care professionals learn to recognize medical emergencies, learn CPR, and learn how to respond to various kinds of medical emergencies. The ACLS course enables health care professionals to improve their skills in helping patients who have cardiac arrest or other cardiac emergency experiences.

Some cardiac nurses get cardiac/vascular nurse certification by passing the cardiac nursing exam, such as the one given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). A Master of Nursing (MSN) degree, or its equivalent, can also be helpful for anyone interested in this profession. The MSN degree includes coursework such as nursing procedure, nursing research, and other nursing-relevant coursework. Prospective employers find the degree impressive because it demonstrates the nurse's willingness to acquire expertise, and it indicates that he or she has stamina and persistence.

Pursuing a career as a cardiac nurse is a good career choice for those who want to make an immediate positive impact on the quality of patients' lives. Nurses must have the right personality characteristics to do this career. For example, it is useful for this type of nurse to be able to stay calm under pressure, and have good interpersonal and analytical skills.

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honeybees
Post 4

My nephew currently works at the hospital as a cardiac nurse. Years ago it seems like you mostly saw females who pursued careers in nursing. It is becoming more common to see males in this role as well as females.

Nursing can be a challenging career, but it pays well and is also very rewarding. My nephew worked in the catheterization lab for a couple years before being transferred up to the main floor.

He says there is never a dull moment working in the cardiac unit of the hospital. I know not every situation turns out OK, but there are many times when he feels good about being part of the process that saves a life.

myharley
Post 3

My husband has a history of heart problems and has had to have more than one stress test. A cardiac nurse is always there whenever he has this test done. This is not an easy test to go through, but it does help some knowing that there are several qualified people right there in case something should go wrong.

I am not sure what special training a cardiac nurse specialist has to go through, but I feel confident they have received the training they need should they have to quickly respond to an emergency. He has been fortunate to have cardiac nurses that have wonderful interpersonal skills and have assured both of us many times.

andee
Post 2

When my daughter went through her nursing training, she had no idea which area she wanted to specialize in. She was able to work on more than one floor of the hospital and during this time discovered she really enjoyed working on the cardiac unit. I think it takes a special person to be a nurse no matter where they work, but working on the cardiac floor you have to be ready to respond quickly and calmly at any time.

golf07
Post 1

We were recently visiting a friend in the hospital who was in the coronary care unit because he had been having chest pains. While we were there, a cardiac nurse came in more than once to check his blood pressure and see how he was doing.

Also while we were there, there was a medical cardiac emergency across the hall. Within a matter of a minute or two, there were about 10 people who responded to the code. Even though we were across the hall from what was happening, it gave me a very good idea of how calm they must remain when they are under this kind of pressure.

I am sure that no matter how many times a cardiac nurse has to respond to those circumstances, it never really gets any easier. Knowing they have been trained in how to respond to those emergencies would help, but it would still be stressful.

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