What is Cardiac Nursing?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cardiac nursing is a nursing specialty which focuses on caring for patients who have cardiac and vascular problems. There are a variety of areas in which a cardiac nurse can work, ranging from operating rooms to intensive care units, and employment prospects in this field tend to be quite good. Especially with additional qualifications beyond a basic nursing degree, a cardiac nurse can command a respectable salary and enjoy a wide variety of work environments. Nurses are always in high demand, with specialized nursing skills being even more desirable.

Cardiac nurses may assist surgeons in operating rooms.
Cardiac nurses may assist surgeons in operating rooms.

Usually, a cardiac nurse works under the supervision of a cardiologist, a cardiothoracic surgeon, or another form of specialist who deals with heart and circulatory issues. He or she is actively engaged in patient care, providing updates to the doctor, performing routine procedures, and keeping the patient comfortable and informed about his or her treatment. While it is possible to perform many cardiac nursing tasks with a basic nursing degree, most people in this field pursue advanced certifications to make themselves more employable, and to ensure that they can provide patient care of the highest quality.

A cardiac nurse helps patients with medications and postoperative care.
A cardiac nurse helps patients with medications and postoperative care.

Cardiac nurses can be seen assisting surgeons in operating rooms, providing supportive care in intensive care units, cardiac care units, and cardiac wings in hospitals, and assisting patients in rehabilitation facilities. They also administer stress tests and other diagnostic tests, and assist in cardiac catheterization labs and other facilities where various cardiac procedures are performed. Some cardiac nursing students choose to specialize in the treatment of specific conditions, or in handling care for juveniles or the elderly.

Cardiac nurses have special training and experience on patients who are recovering from heart bypass surgery.
Cardiac nurses have special training and experience on patients who are recovering from heart bypass surgery.

The nurse to patient ratio in inpatient cardiac facilities tends to be very low, since the heart is a critical organ which requires consistent and detailed monitoring. A cardiac nursing facility usually includes telemetry so that patients can be monitored remotely, along with a nursing supervisor who ensures that all of the nurses on duty have the tools they need to do their jobs.

A cardiac nurse may take patients to physical therapy or testing.
A cardiac nurse may take patients to physical therapy or testing.

In addition to administering medications, helping with medical testing, and providing basic physical care to their patients, many cardiac nursing specialists also provide emotional and psychological support. Emotional stress can be very hard on the heart, potentially leading to complications, so cardiac nurses try to keep their patients calm and happy. They also look out for patient safety, making sure that procedures are followed, keeping on the patient's charting so that information about the patient's case is up to date, and advocating for the patient in interactions between the patient and his or her doctors, family, and friends.

Cardiac nurses are responsible for their patients' comfort, as well as keeping them informed on their treatments.
Cardiac nurses are responsible for their patients' comfort, as well as keeping them informed on their treatments.
During cardiac monitoring, a patient is fitted with a telemetry transmitter that sends data to the area of the hospital where the monitoring occurs.
During cardiac monitoring, a patient is fitted with a telemetry transmitter that sends data to the area of the hospital where the monitoring occurs.
A cardiac nurse's duties can including charting, as well as hands-on care.
A cardiac nurse's duties can including charting, as well as hands-on care.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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