Nurse taking a man's heartrate

How to Become a Cardiac Nurse

Learn how to specialize as a Cardiac Nurse, including the education and certifications required

Nurse taking a man's heartrate

The CDC reports that about 20 million adults have coronary artery disease, which is the most common form of heart disease. The department also shares that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, accounting for one in every five deaths in 2020. That’s why many doctors and healthcare workers choose to specialize in treating this disease—including Cardiac Nurses.

Cardiac Nurses, working closely with cardiologists, play an essential role in treating patients with cardiovascular disease. This article serves as a career guide to help you learn what Cardiac Nurses do, where they work, the skills this specialty demands, the education requirements, and the average salary* and job outlook.

To learn more about starting your career as a nurse, click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse. You can also discover other popular nursing careers by exploring the different types of hospital nursing jobs.

Cardiac Nurse Definition

What is a Cardiac Nurse?

Under the supervision of cardiologists, Cardiac Nurses assist in treating patients with cardiovascular disease, including conducting screenings, educating patients on lifestyle management, and helping them recover from heart surgeries.

Cardiac Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Cardiac Nurse Do?

Cardiac Nurses provide a full spectrum of care to support cardiac patients. They perform diagnostic tests like electrocardiograms and echocardiograms, conduct screenings, and educate patients on managing cardiovascular diseases. They help patients recover from heart surgery, angioplasty, and other procedures. On top of all of this, they provide compassion and support to cardiac patients and their families.

Cardiac Nurse Duties

Your duties in this role can vary by your job and what type of facility you work in. Some of the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a Cardiac Nurse include:

  • Administering medications to patients
  • Conducting stress-test assessments on cardiac patients
  • Working with cardiac physicians and surgeons to provide post-surgery pain management and cardiac care to patients
  • Putting and removing IV drips
  • Tracking defibrillator use
  • Providing post-operative care to patients recovering from heart surgeries and pacemaker implants
  • Tracking cardiac and vascular monitoring
  • Observing a patient’s heart activity and interpreting electrocardiogram readings

Cardiac Nurse Skills

To become a successful Cardiac Nurse, you’ll develop a diverse set of skills that you’ll rely on daily. Some of the most important skills include:

Communication: You’ll need to exhibit clear and thorough communication skills when speaking with cardiologists, surgeons, and other healthcare staff and show a compassionate and caring tone when updating patients and families with status updates or recovery instructions.

Critical Thinking: The ability to quickly assess facts and note changes in patient conditions will help you to make rational decisions and respond to urgent situations in ways that help deliver positive outcomes.

Research: Successful treatment plans will depend on your ability to synthesize patient data, monitor symptoms and test results, and discuss possible diagnoses with cardiologists and other health professionals.

Technical: You’ll need to acquire the skills to conduct tests like electrocardiograms and echocardiograms, administer various medications, and operate other specialized equipment such as ventilators and pacemakers.

Close up of a heart monitor in an operating room

Where Do Cardiac Nurses Work?

Most Cardiac Nurses work in hospitals, providing care to patients who are having surgery or a related heart procedure. Some nurses also work in cardiovascular clinics, private practices, nursing homes, or provide home healthcare to patients via home healthcare agencies.

In each of these settings, you may work with different types of patients, including those with acute and chronic cardiovascular diseases. As you assist in patient exams, you may perform stress tests, monitor heart activity, and update medical records. For surgeries and other procedures, you may perform tasks like inserting and removing IVs and administering medication.

As part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team, Cardiac Nurses commonly work closely with cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

Cardiac Nurse Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Cardiac Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Cardiac Nurse?

To specialize as a Cardiac Nurse, you’ll need to complete an educational program, become a Registered Nurse, and then get certified in one or more specialized areas. It sounds complicated—and there are several pathways you can follow—but you can accomplish this goal by following these steps:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

First, you can complete a nursing program by earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Another common route is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Typically, an ADN degree takes about two years to complete, while a BSN program is usually about four years (note that the accelerated BSN Program at Eagle Gate College can be completed in three years).

2. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree

This step is optional. Some will choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), especially if their long-term goals include more advanced leadership roles or a desire to work as a nurse educator. Most MSN programs, like the online MSN program at Eagle Gate College, can be completed in about two years for those who already have a BSN.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Once you’ve graduated from your nursing program, you’ll need to prepare for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) to become licensed as an RN. This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Their website offers candidates information about the exam, its format, and study aids to help you prepare for the exam.

4. Complete a Certification Program

The final step to specialize as a Cardiac Nurse is to complete a certification program. Each certification lists its own qualifications. For example, the CVRN-BC certification requires at least one year of experience as an RN in a cardiology setting before applying for the certification exam. You may choose to obtain one credential or several, depending on your area of specialization, career goals, and your employer.

Cardiac Nursing certifications you may pursue include:

  • Cardiovascular Nurse (CVRN-BC Level I or II)
  • Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC)
  • Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional (CCRP)
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN)

Cardiac Nurse Salary

How Much Do Cardiac Nurses Make?

Although the BLS doesn’t report salary* data specifically for Cardiac Nurses, they report that the average salary* for all Registered Nurses is about $83,000 per year, or roughly $40 per hour. The top 10% of these nurses earn an average salary* of about $120,000 per year.

Note that your exact salary* as a Cardiac Nurse will vary based on your geographic location, level of education, and experience.

Cardiac Nurse Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners?

The BLS doesn’t report job outlook data specifically for Cardiac Nurses, but they project that employment of all Registered Nurses will grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031. This means that over 200,000 job openings will become available each year. Some of the demand is due to the ongoing nursing shortage, while additional jobs will be created by those who transfer to different occupations or retire from the workforce.

Cardiac Nurses may also see opportunities for advancement. Including positions such as a head nurse, assistant director, or director of nursing, Some leadership positions may require a graduate degree in nursing.

Nurse holding a red heart plush

Consider Specializing as a Cardiac Nurse

Now that you know more about how to become a Cardiac Nurse, including some of the common duties, average salaries, and the job outlook, you may be interested in choosing this specialization.

With heart disease being a common health risk—and a leading cause of death—it’s vital that Cardiac Nurses support the team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and other healthcare providers in treating cardiovascular patients. Helping these patients obtain medical treatments and recover from heart procedures can lead to an extremely rewarding nursing career.

To get started on the path to becoming a Cardiac Nurse, take a look at the BSN Program at Eagle Gate College. Or, if you already work as an RN with an associate degree, consider our RN-to-BSN Program.