What Is a Cath Lab Nurse?
Cath lab nurses help doctors perform cardiac catheterizations, which are medical procedures used to diagnose and treat heart conditions. In cardiac catheterization, a small tube called a catheter is inserted into the heart (via a large blood vessel) so that blood pressure and flow can be measured. This can determine the strength of the heart and help identify heart health issues. Cardiac catheterization also can aid in opening blocked arteries.
Cath lab nurses typically work in hospitals, though some jobs might be available with outpatient clinics. During cardiac catheterization procedures, cath lab nurses monitor and record patients' vital signs, and they must be ready to intervene if an emergency arises. Post-procedure, they administer any necessary medications and watch for any side effects or signs of infection in patients. Between patients, cath lab nurses ensure that supplies, including medications and emergency and IV supplies, are stocked and organized.
Cath lab nurses also play an important role in communication and patient education. They explain to patients how to prepare for procedures and what to expect afterward, and they give patients' families post-surgery instructions, such as how to care for surgical sites and what activities to allow the patient to engage in.
|Educational Requirements||Minimum of an associate's degree; a bachelor's degree is usually preferred|
|Job Skills||Evaluation skills, clinical reasoning and good judgement, ability to cope with stress, oral and written communication skills|
|Median Salary (2020)*||$76,026|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)**||12% (for all registered nurses)|
Source: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
While an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) meets the educational requirements to become a registered nurse (RN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) typically leads to more and better employment opportunities for cath lab nurses. After earning a nursing degree, prospective cath lab nurses must become licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) and meeting any other requirements established by the state where they'll work.
Additionally, cath lab nurses usually need Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification, and employers might seek nurses with CCRN certification from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. To become a CCRN, licensed nurses must meet clinical experience requirements and pass an exam. Once they've gained 2,000 hours of experience in cardiac-vascular nursing and completed 30 hours of continuing education in the specialty, cath lab nurses also can pursue the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Cardiac Vascular Nurse (RN-BC) credential.
Cath lab nurses need well-developed evaluation skills to evaluate patients' conditions before, during and after cardiac catheterizations. Because these procedures can require split-second decisions, particularly if something goes wrong, cath lab nurses also must have excellent clinical reasoning skills and good judgement, and they must be able to cope with stressful situations. Additionally, they need strong oral and written communication skills for interacting with other medical personnel as well as patients and their families.
Career Outlook and Salary
Job growth for all registered nurses is expected to be faster than average, with an increase of 12% projected in the decade spanning 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. PayScale reported that cardiac cath lab RNs earned a median annual salary of $76,026 as of May 2020.
Careers on various levels are available to individuals interested in treating heart-related medical conditions. Here are some jobs similar to that of cath lab nurse: