There are many exciting options to choose from in nursing specialties, but an interest in helping patients with their heart health may lead you to become a cardiac nurse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number one cause of death among both women and men is heart disease. Over 735,000 people have a heart attack in the U.S. every year. Those statistics and other heart ailments for people of all ages show what a great need there is for quality, compassionate cardiac nursing care.
First Steps Toward Becoming a Cardiac Nurse
Like all other nursing specialties, a cardiac nursing career begins with becoming a registered nurse. You may do this in a variety of ways, though the standard path is generally through completing either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree of nursing (ASN or BSN) and then taking and passing the national licensing exam for nurses, which is called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Once you have become a registered nurse, you can pursue an interest in a specific type of nursing such as cardiac care. If you want to become certified in cardiac care, it will take at least two years and 2,000 hours of clinical work with cardiovascular patients in order apply to take a certification test. You will likely need to take some applicable continuing education courses as well.
Going on to Advanced Practice in Cardiac Nursing
If you decide to make cardiac nursing your career, then you will probably go on to obtain some graduate level education in the field. There are a number of ways you can specialize a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree so that you can focus on patients who suffer from heart issues. You might focus your degree on cardiac care, on acute management with a cardiac emphasis, or on cardiovascular health and disease management. Whatever your specific focus, your MSN can qualify you to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), which is one of four advanced practice nursing roles.
Cardiac nurses at this advanced level can also work toward certifications. Nurses working in intensive care, telemetry, in various labs or in care for patients at home might opt to work toward an Adult Cardiac Medicine certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (ACCN). Nurses working in settings involving cardiovascular surgery may seek certification in Adult Cardiac Surgery from the same association. There are other possible certifications as well, including the Certified Heart Failure Nurse credential from the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses.
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According to the CDC, coronary heart disease is a serious health problem in the U.S. Nurses are needed to help educate patients, especially those who are at a high risk for heart disease or a heart attack, including patients with blood pressure issues, or who are overweight or have diabetes. Technological advances mean that even patients who have heart episodes can sometimes be helped through surgical intervention. In both these cases, caring and skilled nurses are vital to helping patients learn how to take care of themselves, either to prevent heart problems or to manage them. If this kind of work interests you, you may want to become a cardiac nurse.