What Does a Cardiac Care Nurse Do?

Jul 29, 2020
Angie Magdziak, RN

What is Cardiac Care Nursing?

Cardiac Care Nursing is essential to today’s aging population, given that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US. Cardiac nurses are expected to have a comprehensive knowledge base, as this field is ever-expanding with new therapies and treatments always on the horizon. Accordingly, cardiac nursing is a very rewarding career with rarely a dull moment! 

What are the responsibilities of Cardiac Care Nurses?

In addition to basic patient care, communication skills, and compassionate bedside manners, Cardiac Care Nurses need to be knowledgeable in the following areas:

  • Cardiac medications
  • Telemetry and heart rhythms
  • Common cardiac conditions
  • Cardiology procedures and surgeries
  • Labs pertaining to cardiology
  • Cardiac-focused assessments
  • BLS/ACLS certifications

What should nurses entering this specialty expect to encounter on a regular basis?

Whether you’re working in a hospital or clinic, there are some common responsibilities that all cardiac nurses can expect. Cardiology nurses collaborate as part of the healthcare team with cardiologists and other specialists to provide care for patients. 

You may also work closely with social workers, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, home health nurses, and respiratory therapists. Assessments, lab evaluations, medication management, and education related to cardiac conditions and procedures are all a regular part of the cardiac nurse role. 

reflection of healthcare model in pulse machine display cardiac care nurse

What’s your experience as a Cardiac Care Nurse?

I began nursing school after developing an interest in cardiology during my undergraduate degree. I interned in Cardiac Rehab, which led me to explore cardiology nursing. After graduating from nursing school, I started as a new grad in a CICU for a large teaching hospital.

Our specialty cardiac patients included STEMIs, cardiogenic shock, cardiac arrest and hypothermia, cardiac rhythm issues, congestive heart failure, and cardiac transplant and LVAD evaluations. 

After CABG or transplant, the patients were admitted to our CVICU. I loved the complexity of the advanced heart failure patients, as well as the camaraderie and learning environment in a teaching hospital. The fast pace of the Cardiac ICU and the drips, technology, and devices used to help patients always kept me engaged. 

While working in the CICU, I became proficient in IABPs, PA catheters, hemodynamics related to heart failure, Impellas, ventilators, CRRT, temporary pacemakers, and cardiac and ICU infusions.

Seeking to expand my horizons, I started a PRN job as a Cardiac Clinic RN. Whereas ICU nursing can be described as “left-brain” nursing due to the organization and knowledge involved in completing your shift, cardiology clinic nursing developed my right brain. Since I was doing a lot of phone triage and education, my listening skills improved due to conducting assessments over the phone. 

As a clinic nurse, I ordered and coordinated testing, reviewed labs, and provided education around medications and procedures. I also helped with INR clinic, stress tests, and echoes. This kept the job hands-on, rather than feeling like a desk job. 

What are some of the benefits of working as a Cardiac Care Nurse? 

There’s never a boring day while working as a cardiac nurse. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, there are plenty of jobs for nurses in cardiac care. Due to evolving research, we are always seeking best practices and new treatments for heart disease. There are constantly new products and medications to learn about for treating heart health. 

The knowledge and experience gained as a cardiac care nurse can help further your nursing career as a nurse practitioner or CRNA. In addition to clinic and hospital cardiac nursing, many unique specialty cardiology nursing jobs seek nurses with cardiology experience. 

Examples include cardiac rehab, cardiac cath lab, electrophysiology lab, stress test nurse, device nurse, product rep nurse, research nurse, pediatric cardiac nurse, and cardiac transplant coordinator. 

What are some of the not-so-great parts of working as a Cardiac Care Nurse? 

Although cardiac nursing is a fascinating and ever-changing role, there are a few drawbacks. The hardest part is not being able to save them all. Cardiac issues are the number one cause of death, so witnessing death is inevitable. And it’s never easy (and can lead to moral injury in the long term). 

Cardiac clinic nurses can develop relationships with patients, which may continue in the clinic for several years. Hospital cardiac nurses may not have known the patients as long, but still form bonds with the patients. It’s challenging whether it’s a code situation or a palliative death and often involves a certain amount of compassion fatigue.

Share your favorite piece of advice for nursing new grads or students looking to become a Cardiac Care Nurse

Cardiac nursing is such an exciting and rewarding field. I love it when nursing students light up during clinicals and find their passion for cardiology! My advice is to always ask questions. No question is stupid, and remember to never be intimidated by more experienced nurses or the cardiologists. 

Second, become competent in cardiac rhythm interpretation… and maintain this competence! 

My final piece of advice is to take time for self-care and stay present in your life outside of work. This is good for both your mental health and cardiac health. If your job does not give you enough time or feels too stressful, there are a variety of other roles in cardiac care nursing that may better fit your personal needs.

apple watch showing pulse reading cardiac care nurse

When it comes to cardiac care nursing, the job opportunities are endless. Whether you’re a new grad or an experienced nurse, it is never too late to start a career in cardiac nursing.

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