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Cardiac Rehab Nurse Careers: Education and Salary Requirements

Career News September 15, 2013

What are the Duties of a Cardiac Nurse?

Nurses in cardiac rehab careers play an important role in the care of patients with all kinds of heart problems, as well as cardiopulmonary diseases. They work with cardiologists (doctors specializing in treating heart disease) as part of a cardiac health team.

A cardiac rehab patient care program includes designing a treatment plan for each individual patient, personalized to his or her unique needs. Heart attacks, angina, coronary angioplasty, stents, open heart surgery and transplants are some of the cardiac conditions and diseases treated through cardiac rehabilitation.

Cardiac rehab and other cardiovascular nurses may be advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have chosen this field as a sub-specialty. APRNs practicing cardiac nursing as a sub-specialty may hold multiple specialty certifications that pertain directly to the patient groups served.

Most cardiac nurses work in the cardiology units of hospitals, as well as cardio- surgical and intervention units. Increasingly, they are also found in a number of cardiology-related settings, such as:

Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories – the nurse holds a Cardiac Catheter Lab (CCL) designation, and may work in critical care, emergency care, or acute care, as well as in pre- and post-op care. The CCL nurse usually provides immediate care for the short term.
Telemetry Care – nurses monitor a patient’s vital signs using equipment such as electrocardiograms machines, and may work alone with CCL nurses in performing assessments and monitoring.
Electrophysiology Laboratories – nurses work with the cardiologist to diagnose heart irregularities and arrhythmias and provide intervention and treatment.

What are the Educational Requirements for Becoming a Cardiac Nurse?

As with all regular and specialty RNs, those interested in cardiac rehab careers begin by earning a BSN and passing the state boards for licensure. Nurses intending to pursue cardiac nursing will hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, with others going on to complete post-master’s education in their cardiovascular field of specialty.

Master of Science in Nursing degrees available to prospective cardiac nurses include:

•Master of Science in Nursing – Cardiac Care Concentration
•Master of Science in Nursing – Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Cardiac Specialty program
•Master of Science in Nursing – Cardiovascular Health and Disease Management
•Master of Science in Nursing – Acute care Nurse Practitioner Cardiovascular Specialization

Courses commonly studied in these programs include:

•Advanced Pharmacology
•Advanced Physiology
•Advanced Pathophysiology
•Nursing Management of Cardiac Patients in Acute Care
•Nursing Management of Cardiac Patients in Critical Care
•Nursing Management of Cardiac Patients in Outpatient Settings and Rehabilitation Programs
•Advanced Scholarship Research
•Advanced Health Assessment
•Theory in Advanced Practice Nursing
•Project Planning
•Leadership
•Clinical Prevention
•Population Health

What are the Certification Requirements for Cardiac Nurses?

Cardiac nurses need to meet the specific education and certifications required by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The Center has retired the Cardiac Rehabilitation Nursing certification (RN-BC), although recertification/ renewal are still available. RNs interested in cardiac rehab careers can still pursue certification (for nurses not previously certified) for Cardiac-Vascular Nursing (RN-BC). The requirements are very similar to the previous certifications. Candidates for certification must:

•Have worked as a full-time registered nurse for at least two years (or the equivalent).
•Hold an active RN license of a state or US territory, or the legally-recognized professional equivalent of a foreign country.
•Have completed at least 30 hours of continuing education credits in cardiac vascular nursing within the previous three years.
•Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiovascular nursing within the previous three years.

What Kind of Salary Do Cardiac Nurses Earn?

According to information in Advance for NPs and PA National Salary Report 2011, the average salary for nurse practitioners overall was $90,583 with an NP in a cardiology setting earning $90,370. Emergency department NPs earned an average salary of $103,722, while those in surgical units earned $91,023. Nurse practitioners in regular hospital settings earned a bit more, $96,124. All figures were for the year 2011.

O*NetOnline, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports a median hourly wage of $31.71, with an annual income of $69,950 for Clinical Nurse Specialists, including Cardiac Nurses.

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