Students who find that they have an interest in heart health and how the cardiac system operates should consider specializing in a related field of study before graduating from nursing school. Specializing in a degree not only guarantees a more fine-tuned professional skill set, but it also looks great on a resume to potential employers.
Cardiac nurses specialize in taking care of patients with a heart-related illness or disease. Heart diseases can affect the heart, veins, or any part of the cardiovascular system. The specific job duties of a cardiac nurse will depend greatly on which type of medical facility he or she chooses to work, but in general they take care of patients who are about to be treated for a cardiac disease, have already been treated for a cardiac problem, or are being evaluated and monitored.
Cardiac nurses attend an accredited nursing school where they earn, at minimum, a registered nurse (RN) level education. Cardiac nurses obtain a BSN (Bachelor of Science) in nursing before they are able to take a certification test to become a specialized nurse. Becoming a CNS (cardiovascular nurse specialist) while earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is possible through an accredited nursing school offering a specialized degree in cardiac nursing, as well.
To become a specialized nurse, extra certification and training is required either during or following nursing school graduation. (Knowing early that a career in cardiac nursing is the goal after graduation can help choose appropriate classes to pass these exams, however.) A great number of states require cardiac nurses to be certified by national organization and nursing school graduates are certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The ANCC works in partnership with other agencies interested in the success of cardiac nurses following graduation from an accredited school, namely the Society for Vascular Nursing, the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association.
Following certification and nursing school, cardiac nurses can occupy roles at a number of health facility types. While most work in hospitals and care for patients that are acutely ill, some choose to work at cardiac specialty clinics, inpatient surgical centers, and rehabilitation facilities. Some nursing school graduates may decide to go into home health-care where they visit patients in their own home to check on their condition and help them make better decisions following a life-threatening event or cardiac surgery. Nursing homes also hire cardiac nurses due to the higher population of residents who are at high-risk for experiencing cardiac events.
Nursing schools prepare students for a career in cardiac nursing by first teaching the basic principles and advanced medical practices employed by registered nurses. A 4-year BSN degree is the preferred method of earning a degree that allows students to become a cardiac nurse, but this can also be accomplished through an associate’s degree (AS). In either case, students are required to pass the cardiac nurse certification exam before practicing in the specialized discipline. Students may also be required to earn an additional amount of continued education credits and complete up to 2,000 hours of actual clinical practice before taking the exam.