Cardiac Nurse: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a cardiac nurse. Learn about job duties, education requirements, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Cardiac Nurse Do?

When a patient has a heart problem, they will receive care from a cardiac nurse. Cardiac nurses specialize in heart disease and heart-related medical issues. Cardiac nurses primarily work in hospitals, although some may work in doctors' offices. They provide patient care and follow the treatment plan designed for each patient. They may assist with medical tests on patients and monitor the patient's progress. They also perform other duties, such as updating patient charts, educating patients about their condition and explaining post-treatment care to patients.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Monitor patient vital signs and status; administer medications; use and set up medical monitoring equipment; record status and maintain patient records
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required; board certification in several cardiac nursing specialties is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2017) $66,466**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is a Cardiac Nurse?

A cardiac nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who specializes in cardiovascular diseases and treatments. As a cardiac nurse, you'll generally work in conjunction with cardiovascular physicians or surgeons to treat patients who have chronic heart problems or have recently had heart surgery. Specializing in such a specific area of nursing, you will likely work in the cardiac care department of a hospital or in a specialty clinic.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

In order to become a cardiac nurse, you need a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), an associate's degree in nursing (ASN) or a nursing diploma from a hospital training program. A bachelor's degree program will generally take four years to complete. However, if you already hold a bachelor's degree in another field, you could enter an accelerated BSN program and obtain your nursing degree in 2-3 years. While nursing diploma programs are relatively rare, a large number of associate's degree programs are available. You can usually complete your Associate of Science in Nursing degree program within 2-3 years.

Most nursing education programs combine classroom and clinical training, so you'll be able to get some field experience during your academic career. Some courses during your education are specific to cardiac nursing, but in order to become a cardiac nurse you will likely enroll in a cardiac training program once you have obtained your nursing license. These programs can help you acquire specialized knowledge and skill in cardiovascular treatment.

Do I Need a License?

In order to practice nursing in any state, you need to obtain your license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). After submitting an application to your state's board of nursing, you receive an authorization to test and will be eligible to sit for the 6-hour exam. Generally, each state requires that you hold a 2-year degree or nursing diploma, but education requirements may vary.

In addition to education and exam requirements, states may have additional requirements for licensure. New York State, for instance, requires that you complete training in a child abuse reporting and identification program before obtaining your license. Your state's board of nursing will be able to provide information on any specific requirements.

How Much Could I Earn?

PayScale.com reports that cardiac care nurses made an annual median salary of $66,466 in 2017. The same source indicated the lowest-paid cardiac care nurses earned less than $46,404, and the highest-paid nurses in the field earned more than $106,393 that year. The salaries varied depending on years of experience, location and work environment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2015 that the highest number of RNs worked in hospitals and earned an average annual wage of $72,980.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and medical assistants work in the same general field as cardiac nurses. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency medical situations. They provide medical care, usually while transporting the patient to the hospital. They may respond to a patient who's having a heart attack, and like nurses they will monitor the patient and document treatment before transferring the patient to the hospital. EMTs and paramedics need to complete a postsecondary program but a degree is not required. Medical assistants either complete a certificate program or learn through on-the-job training. Their work is similar to the work of a cardiac nurse because they update patient records and they also may take a patient's vital signs and assist the physician when they're examining patients.

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