What Is A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse?
As the name implies, becoming a cardiac catheterization lab nurse involves working with the human heart. In this field, the nurse has to help with angioplasties and other heart surgeries and even assist doctors when they put in pacemakers and other heart devices.
Generally, a nurse in this field would have to provide care for the patients in ICU units from the time they check in until they are discharged. They would also have to take patient histories, update their records and charts and arrange needs assessments to determine what the patients need to have done. They would also arrange for the medical procedures to happen, which could include booking surgeries and rehabilitative procedures.
During, before and after surgery, they would also be responsible for the patients’ vital signs, that is, for ensuring they are alive and as healthy as possible. They would also be responsible for the equipment needed for the patient and IVs, as well as for checking on the patients’ medication as per the doctor’s instructions. And this is only part of what makes this a very difficult and involved career choice. A catheterization lab nurse would also have to help in conducting research projects about the heart and in helping to educate others about heart health.
The steps a cardiac catheterization lab nurse has to take include:
- Diagnosing a patient with chest pains or other cardiac issues and reporting this to the doctor on duty.
- Assisting in heart surgery should it be called for.
- Preparing for the surgery, that is, getting the right machines and the right dye for the procedure.
- Sending blood out to the lab and assessing the results as needed.
- Assisting in aftercare of the patient and checking for any reactions to the medication or the surgery.
- Research and development.
A cardiac catheterization lab nurse is a very specialized field and this qualification is not one that everyone can achieve. Because of the nature of this field, there is also a need for a certain type of personality as discussed further on.
Requirements For A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse
In this field, there is a need not just for education, but also for a certain type of personality. This is because of the severity of what the role requires. If the nurse does not have excellent attention to detail and a good mind for diagnoses, they may miss something that may put the patient’s life on the line. A cardiac nurse also has to be supportive for the surgeon, which means having the right knowledge to help the surgeon in a procedure, while also being able to intuitively support the surgeon. They also need to be good with people, since there is a degree of care that has to come after the surgery.
Those who wish to study to become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse should have a vested interest in advancements in medicine with a good balance of bedside manner. Sometimes, the balance between the two is hard to achieve and this is generally why this field is so poorly stocked when it comes to nurses.
A nurse in this field must have received a Registered Nursing degree before they specialize. They need to have a very advanced understanding on what is needed in this field and that means a comprehensive knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the heart. There is a huge demand for nurses in this field, so anyone wishing to pursue the field should be able to find an accredited institution in their area.
How To Become A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse
To become certified they should follow the following process:
- Get the undergraduate degree – this is an absolute essential in this field since without the degree you cannot practice. The degree can be obtained from a number of institutions in about two years of study, though clinic hours will need to be built up too.
- Get certified by passing the NCLEX exams, which will give you your license. You will need to renew this license every year.
- Work at a hospital – because of the amount of work and specialization involved in this type of work, those who go into it do not do so fresh out of college. Instead, they will work for years at a hospital getting the experience they need so that once they advance into this field, they are ready for it.
- Take the certification test for a cardiac catheterization lab nurse – this certification will give you the qualification you need to specialize in this field.
Because of the nature of this field, and the amount of technological developments that take place in the field, cardiac catheterization lab nurses may find that they need to constantly attend seminars and lectures, sometimes at their own cost to keep up with their knowledge. This is a field in which a lot of research is being done and some nurses may even take part in this research. Due to the nature of the technology, they will also need to be able to pursue knowledge on their own, which could mean reading journals and studying when they have free time.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Anyone working in a medical job will tell you that it is exceptionally time consuming and in some cases, you may not be able to study a formal course and work at the same time. This is a catch-22 situation considering that without the qualification, you cannot specialize, but without the job, you cannot survive. This is why so many institutions will offer an online course to help those who need to work but wish to study too.
Distance programs are also relatively easy to find and there are many colleges that will let you count your day to day work as clinical hours. For those who wish to find these programs, log on to any search engine and add in your area and the qualification you wish to complete. This should bring up a list of good colleges, most of which will have distance based learning programs. To confirm that they do, you will need to contact them. This type of learning may take you a longer time to complete, but it will give you the advantage in that you will not need to schedule your work around a study schedule.
There is a dire need for cardiac catheterization lab nurses since this is such a specialized field. Those who wish to work in this field will usually be working in big cities, since more rural areas simply do not have the tools and the facilities to support this type of work. As a nurse, you will generally work an eight to ten hour shift and will be on your feet most of the time, however as you gain in experience, you will be able to delegate tasks to other less experienced nurses.
For those who wish to advance their careers in nursing, doing so as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse is an excellent choice and allows for work that is fulfilling and that allows you to engage with patients.
A nurse’s salary depends very heavily on the state in which they live, though they can make up to $30 an hour. This is all dependent on their level of education and on the place they work in. A private hospital may be able to pay more than a small government hospital. Though the salary is good enough to live on, many of these nurses pursue this field because they are interested in the anatomy of the heart and because they want to help heart patients.
It is a very fulfilling field and one that allows for a lot of room to learn and to grow, but becoming a cardiac catheterization lab nurse requires a lot of dedication and hard work. It is not for those who wish to treat the body as a whole and for those who are hoping to advance through the ranks quickly. This is a field in which those who choose to pursue it will have to take years to get to an experience level that is acceptable. Even when they reach this level, they will find that there is the need to do more work and to attend conferences and lectures to keep their knowledge fresh.
For those who are looking for a challenge in a field that is unrelenting in its diversity and extremely changeable, then this may be the path to pursue. But be aware that cardiac catheterization lab nursing is not for everyone and only those who are completely dedicated to it, and intend to be in it for a long time, should pursue it. It requires someone who is not afraid to become involved in situations that require urgency, and someone who is good with people. If this is the career that you intend to choose, do so carefully and with commitment, because it will require a lot of hard work, and many years of study.