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Cardiac Nurse: Career Education for This Nursing Profession

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cardiac nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Cardiac nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work with patients with heart conditions in hospitals and other medical settings. They must complete an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing and obtain a state license. Master's degree programs are also available for those seeking career advancement.

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Essential Information

Cardiac, or cardiovascular, nurses are registered nurses who specialize in attending to patients who have various heart conditions. Traditionally working in hospital cardiac units, these nurses can also be found providing in-home and rehabilitation services outside hospitals. Cardiac nurses must complete a minimum of an associate's degree and pass the NCLEX-RN in order to become licensed. Cardiac nurses may further their careers by completing professional certifications or advanced degree programs.

Required Education Associate's degree
Additional Requirements State nursing license; professional certification may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for registered nurses
Median Salary (2015)* $67,490 annually for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Education for a Cardiac Nurse

Aspiring cardiac nurses must first become registered nurses (RNs). To do so, prospective candidates may complete a nursing diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program. While nursing diplomas are rare and offered by hospitals, associate's degree programs and bachelor's degree programs are more common and may be found at post-secondary educational institutions like junior colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.

Undergraduate Training

Although specific courses and requirements vary based on degree type and institution, most students take courses in anatomy, physiology and nursing skills. Classroom learning is supplemented with nursing practicums, in which students are trained to work with nurses, doctors and patients. Additional topics of study may range from pharmacology to microbiology.

Colleges also offer accelerated programs for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in another discipline. Accelerated programs may last anywhere from 13.5 to 21 months, depending on the program, and typically require students to have already completed a certain amount of basic science courses prior to entry.

Licensing Requirements

Following their training, aspiring cardiac nurses must be licensed by their state before they may practice. To be granted licensure, all states require that nursing students complete an approved nurse training program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), but there may be additional specific state requirements as well.

Continuing Education and Training

Universities offer master's degrees in cardiovascular advanced practice nursing that teach students the specifics of rehabilitating and caring for cardiac patients. In addition to graduate school, hospitals have training programs for their cardiac nursing staff, and professional organizations like the American College of Cardiovascular Nurses (ACCN) offer courses in specific cardiac nursing topics.

Certification Information for Cardiac Nurses

The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM) certifies cardiology professionals, including cardiac nurses. The ABCM offers three levels of certification for cardiac nurses, CVRN Level 1 for non-acute cardiology care, CVRN Level II for acute cardiology care and CVRN Level III for catheterization laboratory nurses. Applicants must pass a written exam for the level to which they are seeking certification. Although certification is voluntary, it may assist with career advancement, as some employers may prefer it.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that registered nurse positions, in general, will grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for registered nurses was $67,490 in 2015.

Cardiac nurses, like all registered nurses, must be licensed by the state. This includes completing a nursing program, pass an exam and may include other requirements that vary by state. Certification of cardiac nurses is available, though usually voluntary.

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