All About Being A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse

What Is A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse?

A cardiac catheterization lab nurse is a nurse who has special knowledge of all things related to the heart and the problems that the heart may experience. Consequently they are charged with the job of assessing a patient’s condition and determining what heart problem that patient may have. In addition they are involved with administering the appropriate treatment to that patient.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

There are a great many roles that a cardiac catheterization lab nurse is expected to fulfill on a regular basis. These include:Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse

  • Providing care to patients in Intensive Care Units until they are discharged
  • Providing care to patients in Cardiac Care Units
  • Providing care to patients in ICU until they are discharged
  • Providing care to patients in CCU until they are discharged
  • Providing care to patients in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab until they are discharged
  • Operating any treatment equipment needed to treat the patient
  • Administering Intravenous therapy
  • Medicating patients according to the instructions of the doctor
  • Acquiring and maintaining patients records
  • Updating patients charts
  • Executing a needs assessment of the patient’s condition and status
  • Getting patients ready for medical procedures
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs
  • Educating other healthcare professionals about Cardiac Catheterization


There are a large number of places where you may find a cardiac catheterization lab nurse. The three most important and common ones are, however, Cardiac Catheterization Labs of hospitals, Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and Cardiac Care Units (CCUs). It is interesting to note that this is a very specific specialty focusing on only one part of the human body. Consequently it will not be particularly easy to branch out form your specialty and seek employment in other sectors of the health care and nursing industry once you have established yourself as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse. In the long run, however, you will be better off in that the employment you do find will pay higher than regular registered nursing jobs will pay.

Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse Requirements

The basic requirements for being a nurse with a specialization in cardiac catheterization nursing are as follows:

  • You must hold a current and active RN license in a state or territory of the United States.
  • (Alternative) You must hold one of the several legally recognized equivalents to a current and active RN license from other countries.
  • You must have at least two years of experience working as an RN.
  • You must have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiovascular nursing within the last three years.
  • You must have 30 hours of continuing education (CE) in cardiac vascular nursing within the last three years.

Given the intensity of the requirements that you will need to meet, it is possible that you will need to devote many years to achieving this qualification.

Personality Traits

There are a number of personality traits that are slightly more useful than others when it comes to cardiac catheterization nursing. First off is an ability to maintain an alert and professional attitude at all times as this will allow you to pick up on anything that is wrong with your patient before it becomes serious. Secondly an ability to make potentially life-saving and critical decisions that may be based on little information is also essential in this line of work as you will often be faced with situations where you will have to think on your feet. Naturally it is also recommended that you possess the many other traits that are considered essential to effective nursing, such as warmth and empathy and an ability to relate to many different people on a regular basis.

Educational Requirements

To become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you need to have a degree in nursing. The basic degrees are:

  • An associate’s degree
  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A master’s degree

To enter a school or college that offers these degrees you will need to have a high school diploma or an equivalent thereof. Generally education of this kind occurs in one of two ways:

  • You can choose to attend an intensive two-year associate’s degree training from a vocational school or community college
  • You can choose to attend a four-year bachelor’s degree program at a university

The longer program is more comprehensive and serves to make your resume look substantially better than the shorter two-year program. Therefore the 4-year bachelor’s degree is the recommended option for nurses interested in this area of nursing.


To be a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you need to hold an RN license. This license is obtained by firstly completing a degree program in nursing. Be sure to complete all of the practical work required in addition to the theory knowledge learned. Once you have passed the exam you can apply for licensure form your state board of nursing (bearing in mind that different states have different rules and requirements when it comes to licensing nurses). If your state board of nursing confirms that you are eligible for licensure, you can set an exam date with Pearson VUE, the administering body. This will cost around $200 and will be administered electronically via computer. The exam is called the NCLEX-RN. Once you have passed the exam you will be licensed. Your license must be renewed regularly.

How To Become A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

This is a highly intensive nursing specialty and it considered impossible to be a good cardiac catheterization lab nurse if you have not engaged in a high degree of hands-on training. Nursing in general is an extremely hands-on profession and so it is necessary that you undergo on the job training with a supervisor who is an expert in matters related to the heart and how it works. You will need hands-on experience regarding:

  • The anatomy of the heart
  • The physiology of the heart
  • The diseases of the heart
  • The treatments that you can use for the heart

Through a compulsory internship you will pick up most of the necessary skills and knowledge required to become a successful and effective cardiac catheterization lab nurse in many different settings.

Source An Accredited Education Program

In order to write the licensure exam necessary to become an RN and eventually a cardiac catheterization lab nurse, you must attend an accredited nursing training program. This is true each and every time you decide to begin a new nursing qualification. If it is not accredited you will be wasting your time. Your state board of nursing is the best source of information regarding whether or not a specific school is accredited and may, in addition, provide you with a list of schools that you could consider attending. Nurses who are currently employed as RNs must have completed an accredited program, so ask any nurses in your area where they went to school. The school itself should also provide the information, although this is not always the case. The state board of nursing remains your best option.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Although many nurses who want to become cardiac catheterization lab nurses do begin with an associate’s degree, they often find it easier to get work if they have a more advanced degree. However, in order to enter this specialization all you really need is an associate’s degree, which can be earned by:

  • Looking into the associate degree programs in your area and making a list of the ones that best meet your personal needs.
  • Applying for each of the schools on your list according to the unique application procedures and expectations of each individual school – note: it is better to apply for multiple schools at the same time.
  • Completing all of the course requirements and graduating from the program.

This will render you eligible to take the RN examination.

Obtain Your Licensure

In addition to your Registered Nurse license you need to gain certification as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse in order to work in this particular field of specialty within the nursing domain. The Cardiac Credentialing International (CCI) certifies Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialists (RCIS), which is the title you will hold once you have become certified. CCI also places nurses on a registry list upon completion of the required examination. To get this certification you must have a high school diploma, provide proof that you completed an accredited nursing program, and provide proof of your work experience in a cath lab through the compulsory internship mentioned earlier. This is one of the nursing specializations where additional certification is an unavoidable requirement and consequently it may take many years of your life for you to achieve this qualification.

Online/Distance Education Programs

There are online training programs for nursing but you need to keep in mind at all times that a nursing program consists of two main parts, namely:

  • A theoretical section of training
  • A clinical or hands-on section of training

It is simply not possible to complete the clinical portion of your training online. This is especially true when training to be a cardiac catheterization nurse as for this specialization you have to physically complete an internship in a health care setting. As long as you are making provisions to complete your hands-on training in genuine health care facilities, there is no reason why you cannot complete your theoretical training online. However you need to ensure that the school you attend is properly accredited, just as you would with a brick and mortar school.

Job Outlook

The more experience that you have as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse, the more jobs you will be asked to take. This is one of the main reasons why you need to complete an internship before becoming certified. In addition to increasing your career options by gaining more experience, you can also increase your career options by completing continuing education courses.

In general nursing is expected to see an increase in the very near future of quite a significant amount. The RN profession is expected to grow by about 22% in total by 2018. As technology used for detecting heart problems becomes more advanced, the role of cardiac catheterization lab nurses becomes more specialized, which in turn means that someone with that qualification will be in high demand and will be a highly sought after professional.


This is a nursing specialization that comes with a very good paycheck. A cardiac catheterization lab nurse is eligible to earn in the region of $90,000 a year as a result of the many years of training required and the amount of skill needed for the job. This is literally about 27% higher than the average for all job postings in the country, making it one of the better earning jobs available.

There are some other jobs with related job titles that you may also be interested in pursuing once you have established yourself as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse:

  • RN Pediatrics: $162,000
  • Operating Room Manager: $108,000
  • RN For Hospital: $67,000
  • Cardiac Cath Lab RN: $60,000
  • RN Cath: $99,000
  • Emergency Room Registered Nurse: $88,000
  • RN Inpatient Cath Lab: $85,000
  • RN Supervisor Charge Nurse: $61,000
  • Cardiovascular Lab Manager: $66,000

Although this is a nursing specialization that requires many years of study and practice before it can be officially achieved, the salary as well as the implied level of professional respect that you will earn as a result of receiving this qualification is well worth the wait. In addition there are a number of career advancement opportunities open to you as with additional training you may eventually be able to fulfill the related roles mentioned above. This is not, it must be noted, a line of work that suits everyone as it requires an intense and focused personality.

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