Cardiac rehab nursing is a rapidly growing specialty within the nursing field. It focuses on both treating persons with a range of cardiovascular ailments and working to prevent further occurrences of these illnesses.
Heart disease and related conditions kill more Americans annually than any other group of diseases. The statistics concerning these illnesses are sobering. According to the American Heart Association:
•One out of every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease
•Heart ailments kill over 600,000 Americans annually
•Approximately 1,000,000 people in the nation have heart attacks each year
•The total cost to the economy from heart ailments exceeds $100 billion annually
Cardiac rehab nurses combat this growing threat in a variety of ways, including providing direct treatment to victims, as well as providing training and coaching to those at risk of developing these ailments.
On any given day, a cardiac rehab nurse might do any or all of the following tasks:
•Perform a variety of diagnostic tests on heart disease patients
•Assist doctors in making an official diagnosis of heart disease
•Administer medications or other forms of treatment
•Lead seminars on how to avoid cardiovascular illnesses, by focusing on factors such as exercise, diet, stress reduction, and smoking cessation
•Counsel patients directly, often with members of the person’s family present, on how to optimize their personal health and lessen their risks of suffering complications from their diseases
•Work with insurers, managers, or civic groups to design heart disease awareness and prevention campaigns
Many cardiac rehab nurses work in hospital settings, where they participate in support teams for those recovering from heart attacks or other cardio-related incidents. They perform tests, ensure that patients are receiving appropriate medications and other care, and lead workshops on dietary and other physical fitness subjects.
Other potential worksites include clinics, private doctor’s offices, mobile medical teams, or visiting patients in their homes. Depending on the exact nature of the position, working hours can be extensive, with shifting schedules and plenty of overtime. This isn’t always the case, however. Some cardiac rehab nurses work daytime hours, with only occasional evening or weekend duty.
Salaries for cardiac rehab nurses range from around $70,000 to over $90,000.00, depending on type of workplace, geographical location, and duties performed. Those who are nurse practitioners often earn considerably more, as they must take on tasks that, in the past, were relegated to physicians.
Cardiovascular disease remains The United States’ number one health concern, with rates continuing to increase. Because of this, the demand for cardiac rehab nurses is expected to remain very strong for the foreseeable future.
All cardiac rehab nurses must first become RNs. Many also obtain a master’s degree, though this isn’t strictly required. All of them must take a number of continuing education classes, work extensive hours in a cardiac treatment setting, and pass a certification exam.