Cardiac nursing includes many sub-specialty areas that relate to patients with heart problems. Since the heart is vital to life, the cardiac nurse must be skilled in all areas that pertain to heart function so that they can help to heal or to treat conditions such as unstable angina, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction and cardiac dysrhythmia among others. Cardiac nurses work in arenas such as coronary care units (CCU), cardiac catheterisation laboratories (CCL), intensive care units (ICU), operating theaters, cardiac rehabilitation, research, cardiac surgical wards, cardiac medical wards and other environments where heart care is a focus or is part of another procedure.

Duties of a Cardiac Nurse

While many cardiac nurses work on teams that provide a collaborative approach to patient care, these nurses also are expected to have specialized skills such as electrocardiogram telemetry monitoring, advanced cardiac life support, defibrillation and medication administration by continuous intravenous drip. Additionally, cardiac nurses interact with patients, families, visitors, and all members of the health care team to develop, coordinate and manage the plan of care. The cardiac nurse must be able to demonstrate knowledge of the principles of life span growth and development and assess data reflective of the patient’s status.

Since heart care, like cancer care, is a growing field thanks to research, the cardiac nurse must stay informed about new developments. In some working environments, evidence-based practice and nursing research is an important part of cardiac nursing practice. In these cases, nurses in all roles become engaged in inquiry, discovery and innovation. Often, support for nursing research is provided by a designated nurse researcher for experienced and novice cardiac nurses.

Physical therapy plays a role with cardiac nurses as well, as they meet the needs for education and support of patients with coronary heart disease who are making lifestyle changes to prevent worsening of the disease. They often monitor patients during physical workouts to prevent overexertion and/or injury. These practices require the cardiac nurse to develop strong educational cardiac assessment skills.

Related Types of Nurses

Cardiac nurses may go on to work as case managers who manage a team of cardiac nurses. Or, they may become clinical educators, providing staff training and making sure newly hired nurses are following treatment protocols. The specialty also needs research nurses who can investigate factors affecting heart disease outcomes and conduct clinical trials so that new treatments for heart problems can be developed. And there are opportunities to move up into administrative and managerial positions, such as clinical managers. Critical care nurses also are in demand, and this career is very similar to cardiac nursing.

Cardiac Nursing Degrees

Nurses who seek a cardiac nursing position must have current Registered Nurse (RN) license or eligible to sit for the a licensure exam, although in many cases a BSN degree and RN license is preferred. In most cases, qualifying nurses may need to complete orientation and competency requirements, obtain/maintain CPR certification, and possible ACLS, PALS, NRP, certifications based on specific work units.

Online Programs in Cardiac Nursing

  • Colorado Technical University: RN to BSN
  • Drexel University: RN to BSN
  • Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences: RN to BSN
  • Indiana State University: LPN to BSN
  • Kaplan University: RN to BSN
  • Liberty University: RN to BSN
  • South University: RN to BSN
  • University of Phoenix: RN to BSN
  • Walden University: BSN