What Is a Cath Lab Nurse? Duties, Qualifications and Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nurses can provide patients with positive and personalized medical experiences. Regardless of what type of nursing specialist you work in, you can help patients feel at ease. Working with medical patients might provide rewarding experiences, but it takes specialized knowledge and skill sets. In this article, we define what a cath lab nurse is, explain their responsibilities and potential work environments, identify education, licensure and certifications, highlight beneficial skills and examine salary and job outlook.

What is a cath lab nurse?

Cath lab nurses are healthcare professionals who work with doctors to provide patients with cardiac care before, during and after medical operations. They examine patients to ensure they are in good health for surgery. During patient operations, they monitor patients ' vitals to make sure they are at healthy levels. Then, after a patient has come out of surgery, cath lab nurses perform their primary duty of working with and helping their patients through recovery. Cath lab nurses are with their patients throughout every step of their operations and may even provide care expertise after they have recovered.

Patients can vary for cath lab nurses and might be anyone who needs a catheter. Although, their patients are typically older aged individuals. Sometimes cath lab nurses might also service patients who have experienced critical injuries.

Related: 52 Types of Nurses

Responsibilities and work environments

Cath lab nurses have many responsibilities for cardiac operations and patient care, including:

  • Handling paperwork, like consent forms, and filing documents with patient records

  • Preparing for operations, which might require sterilization of the space and shaving the patient at the catheter insertion site

  • Monitoring patient vitals and sedation during and after operations to make sure patients don't have unexpected reactions

  • Sharing discharge paperwork and care instructions with patients or their families

  • Revising patient charts to add information about their operation

Typically, these nurses work in hospitals, medical centers or independent cardiac centers. The hours they work may depend on what type of facility they work in. For example, a nurse who works in a care center might work eight to ten-hour shifts, but a nurse who works in a hospital may work twelve-hour shifts. If working as a cath lab nurse interests you, you can expect to work somewhere between eight to twelve-hour shifts plus potential overtime.

Related: Clinic Nursing vs. Hospital Nursing: A Definitive Guide

Education, licenses and certifications for cath lab nurses

There are some educational and training requirements for becoming a cath lab nurse. The first step to meeting these requirements usually is pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Upon completing a degree, candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). After passing the exam, nurses can officially become registered nurses (RN) in their state. Depending on the location, cath lab nurses might need to complete specific continuing education units to maintain their licensure.

Usually, cath lab nurses need certifications in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). Some other certifications that may be helpful for cath lab nurses are:

  • Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification: This certification is from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and comprises a learning course and final exam. To qualify for this certification, nurses must have an RN license, two years' experience, two thousand clinical practice hours in the past three years and completed thirty hours of continuing education units in the past three years. Nurses typically have to renew this certification every five years, but there are options to renew completely online.

  • Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN): This certification from the American Association of Critical Care for Nurses (AACN) is a formal exam. For this certification, nurses need to have an RN license, a minimum of one thousand seven hundred and fifty hours of work experience with critical patients with eight-hundred and seventy-five hours being within the recent year, and at least five years of service as an RN.

Related: Nursing Certifications: What You Need To Know

Beneficial skills for working as a cath lab nurse

Many skill sets can benefit cath lab nurses, including:

Attention to detail

Cath lab nurses evaluating patients throughout the process of preparing for, completing and recovering from treatment. Attention to detail can be key when monitoring patients to help notice anything unexpected immediately. For example, when a nurse is examining vitals, paying attention to detail might help them monitor subtly changes more accurately. Tips to consider for growing your attention to detail skill set might be:

  • Keeping your materials, like patient records, organized

  • Paying attention to environmental factors in treatment rooms

  • Focusing on one task at a time

  • Creating detailed priority lists

  • Taking breaks to refocus

Rationalization

Sometimes patient operations can require quick decision-making, and cath lab nurses may contribute to those decisions. In scenarios like this, a rationalization skill set may help nurses use clinical reasoning to make good judgment calls for their patients. For example, if a patient's vitals became unstable during an operation, a cath lab nurse might have to make important decisions for their patient's safety. Thinking quickly and being able to place the patient's best interest at the center of decisions can be beneficial when working as a cath lab nurse.

Stress management

Cath lab nurses may experience stress during complicated medical procedures and care plans. Stress management skill sets may help them decompress or relax. Some things that can help manage stress are:

  • Physical activity: This might mean going on walks, doing yoga or exercising in other ways.

  • Social interaction: This may include spending time with friends or family.

  • Meditation: This can help clear your mind and relax your body.

Communication

Cath lab nurses are with patients through every aspect of their pre-operation, operation, recovery and post-operation journey. This continuous relationship can require nurses to communicate with doctors, patients and patient families about the details of each step in the care process. Nurses may need to share information about how the patient is doing, explain post-operation care instructions or answer questions. Cath lab nurses might use written communication, oral communication or both.

Related: Skills in Nursing: Definition and Examples

Salary and job outlook

The national average salary for cath lab nurses is $121,364 per year, although your annual earnings may vary depending on your experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for cath lab nurses will increase by 7% from 2019 to 2029. This growth in demand may provide additional specialized job options for nurses.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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