What Is A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse?

Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse

What Is A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse?

A cardiac catheterization lab nurse is essentially a nurse who is skilled at dealing with cardiac issues. Cardiac relates to the heart and one of the primary purposes of the cardiac catheterization lab nurse is to diagnose the exact problem that the patient may be suffering from. In addition to identifying the problem the nurse is also responsible to a large degree for the treatment procedures that are involved in treating the patient and will be actively engaged in any surgical procedures that may be deemed necessary as a result of the cardiac problem being experienced. Other things that a cardiac catheterization lab nurse may do is implant pace makers. In order to be a nurse of this description you have to hold an RN qualification as well as an RN license.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

The main duties of cardiac catheterization lab nurses include providing care to patients in Intensive Care Units, Cardiac Care Units or ICU, CCU or Cardiac Catheterization Lab until they are discharged, operating any treatment equipment needed to treat the patient, administering Intravenous therapy (making an IV certification qualification very helpful), medicating patients according to the instructions of the doctor, acquiring and maintaining patients records, and updating patients charts, executing a needs assessment of the patient’s condition and status, getting patients ready for medical procedures, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and educating other healthcare professionals about Cardiac Catheterization. In short it is a job that carries with it a high degree of responsibility. Along with this responsibility comes more recognition as well as, usually, an increase in the salary you are eligible to earn.Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nursing


There are three main settings in which you will be able to work as a cardiac catheterization care nurse:

  • Cardiac Catheterization Lab of hospitals
  • Intensive Care Units (ICUs)
  • Cardiac Care Units (CCUs)

The first, namely the Cardiac Catheterization Lab in your hospital, is by far the most common setting in which nurses with this specialization are employed. Employment in this line of work is extremely good at the moment as the health care industry is one that is always on the increase. In addition expanding technology is making it easier for heart ailments to be adequately treated. Consequently more and more nurses with specialized skills in this area are needed in order to meet the growing demand for advanced health care in cardiac units and other settings where cardiac issues are dealt with.

Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse Requirements

There are a number of requirements involved in becoming a cardiac catheterization lab nurse. For example it is a prerequisite that you hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States, although there are a number of legally recognized equivalents from other countries that you could also hold. In addition to that you must have at least two years of experience working as an RN. Qualifying as a cardiac nurse also requires you to have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiovascular nursing within the last three years. Last but not least you must have 30 hours of continuing education (CE) in cardiac vascular nursing within the last three years. Considering the number of requirements, it is possible that it will take you a fairly long time to become qualified.

Personality Traits

Cardiac catheterization lab nurses need to have the same personality traits as all other nurses in general. Some traits that are specifically helpful for this career are:

  • An ability to maintain an alert and professional attitude at all times
  • An ability to make potentially life-saving and critical decisions that may be based on little information
  • An Ability to think on your feet

Heart disease and ailments can be extremely serious, and often the problem can be alleviated or even cured if it is caught early enough. As a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you will have to think and act quickly enough to aid your patient effectively and efficiently in situations that are highly stressful. An ability to function well in these situations will be extremely helpful if you plan to pursue this specialization.

Educational Requirements

As with all nursing specialties there are a number of educational requirements that you will need to meet. Essentially this career requires completing a nursing degree. In order to get into nursing degrees you need to have a high school diploma or an equivalent thereof, making this the most basic educational requirement. There are two educational routes that you can choose to take in order to become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse:

  • An intensive two-year associate’s degree training from a vocational school or community college
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree program at a university

Your training will include such topics as:

  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Diagnostic techniques
  • Other basic nursing techniques


In order to become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you must hold an RN license. This can be earned by:

  • Applying for licensure: applications must be made to your state board of nursing – note that different states may have different application requirements.
  • Paying the fee for the NCLEX-RN exam: this is usually about $200.
  • Receiving notice of eligibility for taking the exam: this notice will be provided by your state board of nursing; do not set an exam date until you have received this information.
  • Making an appointment to take the exam: the organization that administers the exam is called Pearson VUE and it is with them that you must set a date.
  • Finally taking the exam: passing the exam will earn you licensure from the board.

How To Become A Cardiac Catheterization Lab Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

In order to become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you will need to have on the job training. Nursing in general is an extremely hands-on career and you will struggle to fully understand your role if you do not complete the required clinical training. You will be assigned to a hospital setting where you will work under the supervision of a qualified nurse or a mentor. Through this you will be able to learn the basic skills you need to be a nurse of this description, such as highly specialized knowledge about the heart, such as its anatomy, physiology, diseases and treatments. This is what on the job training in cardiac catheterization will prepare you for. Without this knowledge you will be unable to do the job to the best of your ability.

Source An Accredited Education Program

The program through which you do your nursing training must be accredited. If it is not accredited you will be unable to achieve licensure and will most likely have to begin a new program from scratch. Finding accredited programs can be done in the following ways:

  • Speak to your state board of nursing about accredited schools in general or ask them to provide you with accreditation information on the specific schools that you are interested in attending.
  • Secondly you should speak to current RN nurses and ask them about where they did their training – if their program was not accredited they would not be working as RNs.
  • The school itself should provide this information openly and accurately, but it is still better to always double check its claims, just to be sure.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Earning your associate’s degree will eventually allow you to become a cardiac catheterization lab nurse as this is enough to allow you to become an RN. In order to complete an associate’s degree you need to start by looking into your options. Before you review the list of schools in your area that offer the qualification, be sure to create a list of criteria that you would like your ideal school to meet. Apply to at least three schools offering associate’s degrees in nursing in order to keep your options open. When you are accepted, select the school that more closely matches your criteria and enroll by paying the required tuition fees. Completing the degree program and meeting all course requirements will allow you to successfully graduate with an associate’s degree.

Obtain Your Licensure

In addition to receiving your RN license you also need to have certification as a cardiac catheterization lab nurse before you will be employed in this sector of nursing. RCIS certification is for nurses actively working in a cath lab. Cardiac Credentialing International (CCI) certifies Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialists (RCIS). 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
  • Provide proof of your work experience in a cath lab

Certification requires that you take an exam at a cost of about $350. The certification exam will cover all of the basics of nursing in this field, and your certification will be valid for a period of three years.

Online/Distance Education Programs

It is possible to do a portion of your nursing training online. However, because the job is so hands-on, there is a large portion of clinical work that you will be required to complete in a physical, hands-on, practical setting. This simply cannot be done online. When considering online programs, stick to those that are affiliated with a brick and mortar school that has a good reputation or that offer options to you for completing your clinical portion of your course at an affiliated school or health care facility. Studying the theoretical portion of your course online can be more flexible as well as cheaper, and often this is a way to complete your course a little faster as well. In addition you will be able to work at your own pace and in your own time.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for nursing in general is extremely good, and jobs in this field are expected to increase at a faster rate than all other industries. As a cardiac catheterization lab nurse you will spend about two years in the ER, ICU or coronary care unit before working in the cardiac cath lab. It is important to remember that the more experience you have, the more marketable you will be. Having a specialization in cardiac nursing can make a significant difference to your job outlook as you will not only be marketable as a general nurse with all of the skills that come with it, but also as a specialized nurse who can be employed in highly intensive environments. You will, in short, have a significantly increased pool of jobs to consider.


Cardiac catheterization lab nurses earn extremely good salaries. In fact at $90,000 a year, their salaries are 27% higher than average salaries for all job postings nationwide. This makes it a very attractive nursing specialization to pursue. The average salaries for jobs with related titles are as follows:

  • 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

There are a number of advantages to becoming a cardiac catheterization lab nurse, among which are the high salary you will be eligible to earn and the improved career outlook that holding this specialization in nursing will bring you. A specialization in any area of nursing can improve your job options significantly, but this is one of the better and more popular options to choose. However, because it is popular, you may face a fair amount of competition when it comes to getting a job in this industry. As specializations go, this is one of the least intensive in terms of educational requirements and the time it may take to become certified in the field.