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Cardiac Cath Lab Nurse

Cardiac cath lab nurses are highly specialized nurses that work in an area of the hospital called the cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab). They work with patients with heart disease or other health issues involving the heart and assist with medical procedures associated with cardiac catheterizations, procedures in which a cardiologist inserts a slender plastic tube, i.e. catheter, into a patient’s blood vessel and guides it into coronaries or heart chambers. This procedure helps determine blood flow to the heart and can uncover other potentially life-threatening heart conditions. Cardiac cath lab nurses also assist with coronary angioplasties, which open up clogged heart passages.

Due to the complexity of their work, cardiac cath lab nurses are generally prepared at the bachelor’s degree level, and have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). However, many employers will accept graduates of any accredited nursing program, which does not preclude associate degree programs. Many employers will also require that cardiac cath lab nurses be certified in CPR through the American Heart Association so that they are prepared to resuscitate patients if necessary. Cardiac cath lab nurses typically must have 1-2 years of clinical experience in the emergency room (ER), an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Coronary Care Unit (CCU) before entering the cardiac cath lab.

The salaries of cardiac cath lab nurses vary by geographical location and a nurse’s experience in acute care. A cursory search of job listings turned up cardiac cath lab nurse salaries between $41,000 and $63,500 per year. Nurses who choose to work in the cardiac cath lab often take advantage of the opportunity to cross-train in other departments, which not only increases their marketability, but also is a requirement at many hospitals. The advantage cardiac cath lab nurses enjoy over ER/ICU nurses is they can more easily anticipate a patient’s situation. Even patients in the most critical conditions are most often struggling with heart- and cardiovascular-related issues, rather than the myriad injuries and illness arriving in the ER/ICU.