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ACLS Nursing: Cardiac Nurse Job Duties and Compensation

Career News September 28, 2013

Cardiology Nurse

An ACLS Nurse is a registered nurse that has either or both clinical experience in cardiovascular medicine or specialized graduate education in the same field. Essentially, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) nurses educate their patients and treat them regarding cardiovascular issues and health. Moreover, they may obtain voluntary credentialing at some point.

Duties and Responsibilities of an ACLS Nurse

Specifically, ACLS nurses treat and diagnose conditions affecting the cardiovascular or pulmonary systems. They assist with electrocardiograms and other specialized tests that require diagnostics. Moreover, they also focus on patient education and preventative medicine.

Cardiac nurse roles may take on many forms, depending on the position they take and place in which they work. Assisting in the operating room, with multiple cardiac-related procedures, for example, is the role a surgical nurse takes on. Being in charge of patients that are hospitalized for medical care, is the role a floor nurse takes on.

Furthermore, performing diagnostics and keeping records of medical histories, as well as patient education and treatment in a clinical setting, are the job duties of registered nurses. These nurses also assist patients with postoperative rehabilitation and educate them on dietary and other measures for decreasing heart risk.

Pediatric cardiac nursing is a very specialized field of cardiac nursing. Caring for patients 21 years and younger is the specialization of these nurses. Furthermore, caring for children with heart conditions, pediatric cardiac nurses are found primarily in hospitals. They work under a specialized physician (pediatric cardiologist) and help care for conditions that range from heart transplants to congenital heart conditions.

Cardiac Nurse Environment

An ACLS nurse can assist physicians that see patients needing cardiac care, but that do not need hospitalization when one works in a cardiologist’s office. On the other hand, updating records for patients and evaluating patient care are the primary responsibilities for a traveling nurse that visits patients at home.

At more advanced levels, taking the lead in preventative techniques and patient education, as well as conducting research comes with working in hospitals and other medical facilities. These jobs are reserved for clinical nurse specialists.

Typical shifts cardiac nurses take on are divided into day and night shift work, and can typically work 12 hour shifts, which allow them to be off for four days in a row. The actual number of patients they care for can vary widely depending on their workplace.

Education and Requirements

At minimum, cardiac nurses must have obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Further, graduates must then pass the registered nurse (RN) license test in order to work in the field. The qualifications for licensing do vary by state, so individuals will have to obtain information for their state.

However, in order to take on more specialized work, obtaining a master’s degree, doctorate, or further nursing training is recommended. Depending on the education track, nurses may be in school from four to ten years.

Certification is the logical next step for those who have obtained a job as a cardiac nurse. The requirements include clinical education hours, documented continuing education hours, and a minimum of two years of experience as a nurse.

Salary Compensation for an ACLS Nurse

Salary depends on the type of cardiac nursing one does. The position an individual takes will determine what that individual earns. According to data compiled by that includes job openings and associated compensations, as of May 2012, $87,000 is the average income for cardiovascular critical care nurses. These are nurses that work with acutely ill patients in intensive care units.

An average of $72,000 annually goes to emergency cardiac nurses that work in emergency rooms or ambulatory settings. The highest salary is an average of $89,000 annually and is reserved for cardiology nurse practitioners who, under the supervision of a physician, can diagnose, treat, and prescribe treatments.


The area, in which a cardiac nurse helps, determines their ultimate salary. According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California has the top 10 paying metropolitan areas for nurse salaries. An average of $109,000, annually, is earned by a cardiology nurse in California.

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