Cardiac Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

As millions of Americans struggle with heart-related ailments, the demand for cardiac nurses continues to rise. The American Heart Association projects that almost 44% of the nation's adult population will deal with some form of cardiovascular disease by 2030. Our guide presents an overview of cardiac nurse salary and career prospects, along with educational requirements and professional resources.

What is a Cardiac Nurse?

As specialized registered nurses (RNs), cardiac nurses must acquire extensive training in cardiovascular diseases, assisting physicians and surgeons by providing important patient treatment and rehabilitation services. While each cardiac nurse must hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN), many employers prefer them to possess a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Cardiac nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to hold an RN license. The cardiac nurse degree also requires clinical practice and additional certifications in fields like cardiac rehabilitation or cardiac-vascular nursing, depending on the state and employer.

What Do Cardiac Nurses Do?

Cardiac nurses work in hospitals and other facilities to care for patients that suffer from heart problems, such as coronary artery disease, cardiac dysrhythmia, myocardial infarction, or congestive heart failure. These nurses normally work under the direction of cardiologists and care for patients before and after surgical procedures. They monitor vital signs and help patients to deal with pain and discomfort while healing.

These highly skilled professionals use their extensive training to provide cardiac treatment to patients across the lifespan. The specific tasks of a cardiac nurse depend on the work setting and their certifications. Training in advanced cardiovascular life support prepares cardiac nurses to participate in emergency treatment of cardiac arrest patients, read and interpret electrocardiograms and related tests, and become knowledgeable about pharmacology.

Cardiac nurses with telemetry skills care for acutely and critically ill patients who require the use of heart monitoring devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. Clinical nurses sometimes work directly with patients, along with their families and caretakers, to assist with preventive education or healthcare maintenance following treatment or surgery.

Where Do Cardiac Nurses Work?

Cardiac nurses typically find employment in hospital cardiology departments and surgical units, along with interventionist emergency and intensive care, acute care, and post-op settings. In addition, the need for these professionals has increased in medical clinics, community health centers, home healthcare agencies, and in rehabilitative and long-term care facilities.

Cardiac nurses with specialized certifications also serve under cardiologists in electrophysiological or catheterization laboratories to diagnose abnormal heart rhythms and provide treatment. Cardiac nurses with training in cardiac catheterization may work in acute care or critical care settings, sometimes alongside nurses and medical technicians who specialize in telemetry care.

Skills That Could Affect Cardiac Nurse Salaries

While the specific skills required of cardiac nurses depend on their employment setting and their specializations, they must possess broad knowledge of cardiovascular diseases, diagnostic and treatment methods, and the use of medical devices like electrocardiograms. Some cardiac nurses monitor health assessments and oversee patient case management.

Most nursing professionals, including those in cardiac care, must acquire critical-thinking, problem-solving, and monitoring skills to effectively perform their responsibilities. Strong communication skills, the most important of the "soft skills" needed by cardiac nurses, promote coordination with other medical providers to deliver important information to patients and their families.

Cardiac nurses must also develop crisis management skills and the ability to exercise sound judgment in difficult conditions. These nurses should practice self-care to maintain their overall health, physical stamina, and emotional stability.


How to Become a Cardiac Nurse

The process of becoming a cardiac nurse requires determination and dedication but offers substantial personal and professional rewards. A cardiac nurse degree requires 2-4 years of postsecondary education, followed by many hours of clinical practice to receive certification.

Cardiac nurses play an important role in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cardiovascular conditions, working directly with patients experiencing heart attacks, angina, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and other conditions. Despite the hard work and stressful environment, cardiac nurses choose this career out of a strong desire to support, nurture, and empower patients to overcome illness and achieve healthy lifestyles.

Education

The path to becoming a cardiac nurse begins by earning an RN license. This requires a nursing diploma or ADN, which take approximately two years to complete, or the four-year BSN degree. While the nursing diploma and ADN prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam required for licensure, an ADN strengthens your chances for entry-level nursing jobs and serves as a stepping stone to a BSN. Employers increasingly prefer to hire cardiac nurses who have completed BSNs.

RNs may also pursue RN-to-BSN programs, which lead to a degree in less than two years. Career possibilities grow for cardiac nurses who earn a master's degree. The amount of time needed to complete an RN to a master of nursing degree depends on whether applicants already hold an ADN or BSN, along with other program requirements.

Training and Certification

Although each state establishes its own licensure requirements, all nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam before they can legally practice. Aside from this national RN licensing exam, nurses generally pursue career-advancing, voluntary certifications. Cardiac nurses who have completed master's degrees may pursue specialized certifications from the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM). ABCM administers certifications in three areas: non-acute cardiology care, acute cardiology care, and catheterization laboratory nursing.

The American Association of Critical Cares Nurses (AACN) administers two certifications for cardiac nurses. The adult cardiac medicine (CMC) exam leads to certification in critical care, intensive care, telemetry, home care, and interventional cardiology. The Adult Cardiac Surgery (CSC) exam certifies nurses in cardiovascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and post-anesthesia care units.

RNs with two years of full-time nursing experience, 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiac nursing, and 30 hours of continuing education credits may apply for certification in cardiac rehabilitation or cardiac vascular nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).


Cardiac Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

Students planning to enter the nursing profession can expect favorable cardiac nurse salary and career prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% increase in the employment of RNs through 2028, which is a much faster growth rate than the national average for all occupations.

RNs with educational training and certifications in cardiac nursing may earn higher salaries, depending on the type of employer, geographical location, cardiac nursing specialization, and years of experience in the field. In addition to traditional employment sites in hospitals, cardiac nurses can find increasing job opportunities in long-term rehabilitation, home care, and residential care settings.

According to BLS data, RNs earned a median annual wage of $71,730 in May of 2018. While the lowest-paid RNs earned less than $50,800, the highest-paid received more than $106,000 annually. California offers the highest median annual RN salary of $106,950. In the tables below, we present some geographic and experience-based data specifically for cardiac nurses.

Highest Salary Locations for Cardiac Nurses
National Median $64,914
Houston, Texas $67,941
Chicago, Illinois $73,000
Atlanta, Georgia $50,050

Source: PayScale


Median Salary for Cardiac Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $52,062
  • Early Career: $55,556
  • Mid Career: $62,691
  • Experienced: $69,222
  • Late Career: $73,132

Source: PayScale


Related Job Salaries
Registered Nurse Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Medical Assistant Office Manager
$63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $32,840 $47,349

Source: PayScale


Cardiac Nurse Resources

  • American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine For over 50 years, the ABCM has offered cardiovascular courses and board certification exams for every level of cardiovascular professional, including cardiac nurses. The cardiovascular nursing network membership includes discounted rates for professional development and educational resources. Cardiac nurses who join the network receive six free continuing education credits for online courses.
  • Northeast Pediatric Cardiology Nurses Association Founded by a group of cardiology nurses in 1983, the NPCNA has grown into an influential professional association supporting nurses who care for children with congenital or acquired heart disease. Members represent 28 Northeast regional cardiovascular programs and programs from the Midwest and the South. The association sponsors an annual conference, online forums, and an annual scholarship.
  • Association for Nursing Professional Development The professional development specialty in nursing practice strengthens quality patient and organizational outcomes by providing skills in nursing career development, continuing education, management, and leadership. The ANPD represents the interests of professional development nurses by providing educational resources, annual awards, and scholarship opportunities. The association also administers the nursing professional development certification preparation program.
  • Nurse.com Job Search Nurses.com, a leading educational and career resource for professionals in the field, maintains a major job bank listing of over 6,000 positions for cardiology nurses. The organization provides over 750 continuing education courses that fulfill state requirements for license renewal. The website offers several career-related publications, special programs and conferences, and a nursing school directory.
  • American Nurses' Association ANA supports the interests of nurses by fostering high standards of practice and advocating on healthcare issues that affect nurses and the public. The association, through the ANCC certification program, offers several categories of credentials for individuals and organizations. ANA members receive discounts on ANCC certification and may apply for scholarships and research grants.