Meet a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. Cardiology nurse practitioners (NPs) are at the forefront of treating chronic and acute cardiac diseases. As a cardiac NP, you have the choice of working in hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, or across multiple settings.
On this page, you'll learn what a cardiac NP does on the job, what salary they make, and how to complete the education and experience necessary to practice as a cardiac NP. First, let's discover how Tony Anno became a cardiac nurse practitioner, what he does each day, and the challenges and rewards he experiences on the job.
Q&A With a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
Tony Anno, APRN, is a core faculty member in Walden University's master of science in nursing program. Anno currently practices in cardiology/electrophysiology at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and volunteers as the sole provider for Health Partnership Clinic. The clinic provides healthcare to patients regardless of income or insurance status.
Anno is certified by the International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners as a certified cardiac device specialist and certified electrophysiology specialist. He is also a registered cardiac diagnostic sonographer.
Q: Why did you choose a career in nursing? Were you interested in cardiac nursing specifically?
I started out wanting to be a paramedic. I grew up in the Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage era of emergency. My first job in healthcare was as an emergency medical technician for a rural ambulance service. One of my instructors was a registered nurse (RN) who became a lifelong mentor of mine along with her husband. This woman helped introduce me to the profession and guided my career. I have eternal gratitude to her and her husband for taking an interest in a young man just out of high school.
Q: At Health Partnership Clinic, you volunteer to provide healthcare to patients regardless of income or insurance status. What led you to pursue this role, and how has this experience been so far?
I worked in the medical device industry for nearly two decades and became frustrated by the lack of access some patients had to advanced medical care. Often they would receive a pacemaker, then be lost to follow-up as they could not afford care. I wanted to provide an avenue in my area where these individuals could receive care.
I have now been at the Health Partnership Clinic for over 10 years and found it to be the most rewarding aspect of my career. The patients have become like family.
Q: While every patient and situation is unique, what might a "typical" day look like for you as a cardiac nurse practitioner?
While limited to cardiac and electrophysiology patients, we see a variety of ages, genders, and conditions. Every person is an individual, and even though they share diagnoses, each is very different and unique. We may see 15 patients in a day with the same condition or device, but no two are the same. It makes for very interesting days. No two days are alike.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges of your work?
Right now, COVID-19 presents one of the biggest challenges. Our entire world has changed as the virus has worked its way through society. COVID-19 has introduced different obstacles from access to masks to restrictions of visitors. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives.
Q: And the greatest rewards?
The greatest reward is the relationships I've developed over time with my patients. These are priceless!
Q: What advice would you give to those considering a career in cardiac nursing?
Find what you are passionate about and pursue it. This is true for anything you may do throughout your career. It's hard to enjoy and be good at something that you don't care about or have a great passion for.
What Does a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Do?
"We may see 15 patients in a day with the same condition or device, but no two are the same. It makes for very interesting days." — Tony Anno, Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and by age 80, there's a 60% chance you will have hypertension. One of the responsibilities of a cardiac NP is to help manage and control high blood pressure in their patients.
These issues span all ages, classes, and cultures, so a cardiac NP will often find their patient population is very diverse. However, while there is a specialized pediatric population, the risk of heart disease triples with each decade. Thus, most patients are older.
Cardiac NPs work to save, extend, and improve the lives of their patients each day. This is a highly specialized advanced practice role that typically works closely with cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons. They incorporate advanced medical strategies and educate their patients on lifestyle changes that could impact their heart health. A cardiac nurse practitioner must be adept at the following skills and responsibilities to successfully accomplish healthcare goals.
Cardiac NPs can cover all aspects of cardiac care, or they may choose to specialize in one intervention or disease area, such as:
How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
The first step to becoming a cardiac nurse practitioner is to graduate from an accredited associate degree in nursing or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. Like Anno, many paramedics decide to become RNs, and there are several paramedic-to-RN bridge programs available. Once your RN program is completed, you may take and pass the NCLEX exam. All states use this test to assess your clinical competency before issuing you a license to practice.
A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree is the next educational step. To apply and complete an MSN program, you must have your BSN. MSN degree programs recommend nurses have at least two years of bedside nursing experience before stepping into a more independent role like a career as an advanced practice registered nurse. Two to three years as a cardiac nurse are recommended for nurses seeking to become a cardiac NP.
Before taking the next educational step, you might consider becoming board certified as a cardiac vascular nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or you may receive your cardiovascular registered nurse board certification from the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine. Certification is an assessment of entry-level clinical knowledge and skills. You may also become certified in advanced cardiovascular life support from the American Heart Association. The ANCC does not currently offer a certification specifically for cardiac nurse practitioners.
Most cardiac NPs begin with credentials as an acute care nurse practitioner. After graduating, some nurses choose to do a cardiac nurse fellowship program. These are not required but may increase your chances in the job market. Some employers may also require certification in advanced EKG.
How Much Do Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Make?
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nurse practitioners with a cardiovascular clinical focus make a median annual salary of $120,000. This includes the nurse practitioner salary base, incentives, and bonuses. You may increase your cardiac nurse salary based on the geographical area where you practice, your experience, education, and any additional certifications you may hold.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all nurse practitioners is slightly lower at $117,670. Experts estimate the growth for nurse practitioners will reach 45% between 2020 and 2030. An additional 121,400 advanced practice registered nurses will be needed by 2030.
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