Are you thinking about becoming a Cardiac Nurse and are wondering what you should expect in terms of salary? A Cardiology Nurse (more commonly known as a Cardiac Nurse or Cardiac Care Nurse) specifically cares for patients who suffer from pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases.
With only about 0.2 percent of the nurse population in the United States specializing in this field, the compensation for a Cardiac Nurse can be extremely competitive, with several factors influencing the pay level.
The field of Cardiac Nursing is only expected to become higher in demand in the coming years, with the Department of Economics of the University of Toronto estimating an overall 66 percent increase in cardiovascular diseases in the United States from 2000 to 2030.
In this article, we take a look at the salary expectations for this nursing specialty in the United States and the factors that contribute to compensation for a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner.
Average Salary for a Cardiac Nurse
In general, nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions in the US, with a projected salary growth of 16%+ per year. This is significantly higher than the national average, with wage growth in the United States averaging 6.10 percent from 1960 until 2020.
When it comes to the average salary for a Cardiac Nurse, Payscale.com quotes a median annual salary range of $46,000 to $106,000, with an average salary of $66,000 – $68,000. However, several factors contribute to compensation.
What Do Cardiac Nurses Do?
To understand the competitive compensation that comes with being a Cardiac Nurse, it’s important to understand what Cardiac Nurses do. A Cardiac Nurse, also called a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner, a Cardiovascular Nurse and a Cardiology Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) specializing in the cardiovascular system.
While a Cardiac Nurse’s daily tasks vary based on the work setting, all Cardiac Nurses work with patients who have heart problems by monitoring patient progress, administering medication, and following the treatment plan assigned to them by a Cardiologist. A Cardiac Nurse’s role often involves working in acute and critical care scenarios and is trained in responding if a patient goes into cardiac arrest.
What Factors Can Affect the Salary of a Cardiac Nurse?
While the typical salary for someone who is just starting in their career as a Cardiac Nurse is around $64,000 a year, a few important factors will contribute to how much compensation you will receive. Let’s take a look at what factors can affect the salary of a Cardiac Nurse:
Level of Education, Certifications & Specializations
Whether or not you’re just beginning your career as a Cardiac Nurse, your education level will be a top factor in determining your salary. While all Cardiac Nurses must complete a minimum of an associate’s degree as a Registered Nurse Practitioner and pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed, any additional certifications and specializations will contribute to an increase in your salary. This may include a Bachelor’s, Masters or a Doctorate in nursing.
Location of Practice
When considering your salary as a Cardiac Nurse, it’s important to consider location. In general, salaries for a Cardiac Nurse are higher in urban areas. However, it’s important to take the cost of living into consideration as well, which is also higher in densely populated cities. Currently, California ranks highest in terms of exceeding the national average salary for a Cardiac Nurse, with La Honda, CA, ranking 32.6% above the national average. When it comes to general nursing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks the top five states for the highest salaries as:
These five states range from $96,470 to $81,380 in total salary for a general nurse’s average pay.
Years of Experience in Your Chosen Field
How many years of experience in your chosen field of Cardiac Nursing will make a significant difference in your salary and will often prove to be more important than additional certifications. Years of experience working in the field of Cardiac Nursing will provide valuable knowledge and experience that can often not be achieved through additional education.
Where to Work as a Cardiac Nurse
After choosing from various nurse practitioner programs, Cardiac Nurses typically find employment in a hospital setting, providing professional nursing care for critically ill cardiac patients in intensive care units and/or post-operative care units.
In most cases, this is where a Cardiac Nurse will find the most opportunity for work. Cardiac Nurses who work in critical hospital settings care for patients recovering from heart bypass or angioplasty procedures or who are recovering from pacemaker surgery.
While a Cardiac Nurse may typically work in a hospital setting, they may also work in a range of health care settings that contain a cardiology department or specialty. These potential employment venues may include:
- Private practices
- Cardiac catheterization labs
- Home health care services
- Nursing care facilities
- Emergency rooms
- Telemetry care
- Correctional facilities
- Rehabilitation centers
While Cardiac Nurse Practitioners work with patients of all ages, heart disease is most prevalent in adults. It’s important to note that every care setting will look different, with some providing a higher workplace stress level than others. However, the core responsibilities for most work settings will be roughly the same.
Choosing Where to Work as a Cardiac Nurse
When it comes to where you should work as a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner, it’s important to consider which path is right for you. If you’re just starting out in the field of Cardiac Nursing, you may wish to begin your career in a generalized hospital setting and then later move onto critical care.
You may also wish to move out of a hospital setting altogether and find your passion as a Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse or in a cath lab. Across the board, the average hourly pay for a Cardiac Nurse is currently $29.66, with the average Cardiac Nurse salary being $88,646 per year.
How do you decide where you wish to work as a Cardiac Nurse with many opportunities to choose from? Although many specialized positions come with experience, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions to see which employment setting may suit you best now or as your experience grows:
Would You Like to Work in an Office Environment?
A career as a Cardiac Nurse does not just mean working in a fast-paced emergency room. Cardiac Nurses are often employed in office environments and often find work in both physician’s offices and correctional facilities. If working regular hours and building a rapport with the same patients is appealing to you, an office environment may be a great place to build your career.
Do You Like To Be Challenged?
Working in an emergency room, operating room, and critical care often means dealing with life or death situations. These employment opportunities may be the reason you decided to work in cardiac care. Still, it’s important to consider whether you are confident enough in your skills and experience to be able to face these challenges head-on – and at times, alone. If you enjoy being challenged and feel that you can mentally and physically handle this type of setting’s challenges, then critical care may be for you.
Have a Desire to Explore Teaching?
If you’re interested in educating the next generation of nurses, you may wish to explore teaching at a nursing school. While you may think that teaching requires several years of Cardiac Nursing experience under your belt, most colleges require only a few years of practice, as well as the relevant education.
Teaching brings with it the benefits of regular office hours and the potential to actively continue your practice in the form of leading a group of students in their clinical rotations.
Do You Crave Change and Like to Travel?
If you are a Cardiac Care Practitioner that likes to change jobs with the seasons, then a career as a Travel Cardiac Nurse may be for you. Travel Cardiac Nurses are registered nurses who fulfill short-term roles at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities worldwide, filling in gaps when there are nursing shortages.
Travel Cardiac Nurses are not employed by each specific health care facility but by an independent nursing staffing agency that finds them these positions. The good news about a career as a Travel Cardiac Nurse is that assignments are almost always short-term, and you can pick and choose which positions you would like to accept.
Would You Like To Explore the Non-Patient Care Side?
Before beginning your career as a Cardiovascular Nurse, you may decide that you wish to gain more experience in your profession’s non-patient care side. Cardiac Nurses may decide to go into hospital administration, medical insurance, or legal nursing.
You may also wish to head down these career paths after working in the field of Cardiac Nursing patient care. While these positions will all require little to no hands-on patient care, your training as a Cardiac Nurse will be invaluable as you decide to move into these career paths.
Qualities of a Successful Cardiac Nurse
To become a successful Cardiac Nurse, you must fulfill specific education requirements where your skills will constantly be put to the test, but there are certain qualities that you must possess in terms of personality and character strength. While it may seem easy to picture yourself assisting a care team in life-saving procedures in the ER, a career in Cardiac Nursing will not suit everyone. If you’re looking for an alternative career after completing your certification as a Registered Nurse, you may want to consider a Respiratory Therapist Degree.
Strengths of a Cardiac Nurse
To become a successful Cardiac Nurse, it’s important to consider your own personal strengths. While completing the relevant education is required to become a Cardiac Nurse, the following qualities have been proven to be extremely valuable in successfully working in this field:
- Critical thinking
- Physical stamina
- Computer literacy
- Time management
What Are the Educational Requirements for Becoming a Cardiac Nurse?
A Cardiac Nurse, also called a Cardiovascular Nurse and a Cardiac Nurse Specialist, is a Registered Nurse (RN). The following are the educational requirements for becoming a Cardiac Nurse and all necessary certifications and licensure.
An RN must complete a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 2-to-3-year hospital diploma program. While both the hospital nursing diploma program and the ADN will prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam required for licensing as an RN, an ADN will strengthen your chances for an entry-level nursing job with a competitive salary.
An ADN also serves as a stepping stone to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which may be earned in as little as two years with an Associate Degree in Nursing. Not only is completing a BSN the best way in order to quickly advance your career, but employers increasingly prefer to hire Cardiac Nurses who have completed this degree.
It’s important to remember that many students will be covered for federal student aid in order to provide financial assistance in completing their studies.
Master of Science in Nursing
To continue advancing your career and earn a higher salary, you may wish to consider completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). To achieve this certification, you must complete a minimum of two years of graduate study and have achieved recognition from your state board of nursing as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN).
Cardiac Nurses who have completed master’s degrees may also pursue specialized certifications from the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM) in the following three areas: non-acute cardiology care, acute cardiology care, and catheterization laboratory nursing.
Certification & Continuing Education
To further specialize as a Cardiac Nurse, you are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education in Cardiac Nursing and at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the field of nursing.
You may then apply for certification in Cardiac Rehabilitation or Cardiac Vascular Nursing, which are both available through the American Nurses Credentialing Centre (ANCC). While certification is not required in all states, it is strongly recommended in others.
What Skills Are Valued in Cardiac Nurses?
Beyond the personal strengths that we have discussed, Cardiac Nurses require certain specialized skills to successfully perform their job. While all of the following skills are usually taught as part of a Registered Nurse curriculum, the following are skills that are considered to be highest in demand when it comes to working in cardiac care:
Experience as an RN
Before being hired as a Cardiac Nurse, it is important to first be able to demonstrate your skills and experience as a Registered Nurse. An RN should be able to perform minor nursing tasks and assist with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and have the ability to act as a preceptor to new staff and student interns. This is especially beneficial when seeking employment in a teaching hospital.
Establishing your skills as an RN and gaining experience in the field is seen as a highly in-demand skill when it comes to working as a Cardiac Nurse.
A strong background in patient care is seen as a highly valued skill in Cardiac Nurses. A Cardiac Nurse should be capable of planning and administering patient care, identifying short and long-term goals based on patient care needs.
They should be able to give medication on time and correctly, chart all procedures, and formulate nursing interventions to achieve the desired patient outcome. Supervision of support staff is also an asset, as well as the ability to assure a proper patient/nurse ratio.
Acute care is an important part of working as a Cardiac Nurse, involving patients treated for a brief but severe episode of illness resulting from disease or trauma and recovery from surgery. Valued acute care skills will include working as an RN in a cardiac acute care unit, managing a busy acute care unit, and diagnosing and treating patients in sub-acute care.
Basic Life Support
Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is extremely valuable to possess in your cardiac nurse career. A Cardiac Nurse must be able to perform emergency medical features such as BLS or other condition stabilizing interventions. This also includes telemetry certification, as well as experience with computer documentation/charting systems.
Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
Advanced cardiac life support or ACLS applies to the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, stroke, and heart attack, as well as other life-threatening cardiovascular emergencies. Skills in ACLS include the ability to evaluate patients’ vital signs and laboratory data to determine emergency intervention needs, including initiation and implementation of ACLS code situations.
Working with and following physician orders is a highly valuable skill when working as a Cardiac Nurse. Following physician orders include administering daily medications for patients using intramuscular, oral, subcutaneous, rectal, topical, and intravenous methods and ensuring total patient care. A Cardiac Nurse must also be capable of recognizing cardiac arrhythmias and intervening using physician orders or Coronary Care Unit (CCU) standing orders.
Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
A Cardiac Nurse must perform initial patient assessments to directly admit or transfer patients from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to the Emergency Room (ER). Working in the ICU requires skills in recovering high-level post-open-heart surgery patients and working closely with other members of the ICU. A Cardiac Nurse may also work alongside members of the CCU, Neuro ICU, bone marrow transplant unit, and med-surgery units, among others.
The ability to administer Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a mandatory and necessary skill as a Cardiac Nurse. A Cardiac Nurse must be able to respond to codes and then administer CPR and oxygen and further monitor vitals and prepare medication in anticipation of physician orders. A Cardiac Nurse must also be able to deliver patient/family education in CPR and crisis intervention, and physiological warning signs.
Additional Highly-In-Demand Skills
Although we’ve already listed some of the most highly sought after skills for Cardiac Nurses working in the field today, here are more highly-in-demand skills for a professional working in this field:
- Infection control
- General health care
- Heart care
- Critical care
- Staff member training
- IV administration
- Emergency care
- Diabetes education
Job Outlook for Cardiac Nurses
The need for licensed Cardiac Nurses has been steadily on the rise for quite some time, with employment opportunities rising in cardiac rehabilitation centers, intensive care units, cardiac surgery wards, and more.
Students who are planning to enter the nursing profession can expect a favorable job outlook for Cardiac Nurses in 2021, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipating a 12% increase in the employment of RNs through 2028, presenting a significantly faster growth rate than the national average for all occupations.
The need for Cardiac Nurses is steadily on the rise. It will continue to do so, with the Department of Economics of the University of Toronto estimating an overall 66 percent increase in cardiovascular diseases in the United States from 2000 to 2030.
The field of Cardiac Nursing holds a great deal of promise for those who are passionate about helping those who are suffering from heart-related illnesses. Despite this position’s often life-and-death nature, Cardiac Nurses have reported wonderful work environments and appreciative patients, making a career as a Cardiac Nurse rewarding in many ways.
What is the Typical Career Path of a Cardiac Nurse?
The process of becoming a Cardiac Nurse requires dedication, determination, education, and many hours of clinical practice to receive certification. Cardiac Nurses play an important role in assisting physicians in the care of critically ill patients who are experiencing heart attacks, coronary artery disease, angina, arrhythmias, and other heart conditions.
However, they also play a critical role in diagnosing, treating, and preventing these cardiovascular conditions. Although employment as a Cardiac Nurse involves a stressful environment and hard work, many choose this rewarding career out of a desire to support critically ill patients and nurture and empower patients to overcome their illnesses and achieve as healthy of a lifestyle as possible.
Education, Training & Certifications
As mentioned above, the path to becoming a Cardiac Care Nurse cannot begin without earning a Registered Nurse license. Earning an RN license requires a nursing diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). This pathway will take approximately two years to complete, while some nurses choose to take the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) option.
While additional education in the form of a master’s degree is optional, it is strongly recommended to pursue the field of Cardiac Nursing. All nurses must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam before they can legally practice as a Cardiac Nurse. Aside from this national RN licensing exam, Cardiac Nurses will most often pursue career-advancing, voluntary certifications, and/or Continuing Education.
After a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner has completed all of the necessary education and requirements, they can then decide where they wish to seek employment. Your initial career path as a Cardiac Nurse will vary depending on your level of level of education and the number of certifications you have received.
Those who have achieved a higher level of education in the form of a BSN or a master’s will likely be eligible for positions that those with a diploma or ADN will not initially be eligible for without further job experience under their belt.
Specialized training and certificates in Cardiac Nursing will further your qualifications and quickly advance your career path. Many Cardiac Nurses will begin their careers in hospitals and then decide after a few years if they wish to move to a different setting such as a physician’s office, rehabilitation center, or in-home care, or perhaps pursue a different path altogether in the medical field.
Cardiac Nurses Working in the United States Today
The US Department of Health and Human Services states that only 0.2% of Registered Nurses are employed in the field of Cardiac Nursing. According to information provided by the May 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report on registered nurses, this fraction only adds up to a total of about 5,400 cardiology nurses working in the US.
It’s important to note that this small fraction does not indicate that there is any shortage in the amount of Cardiac Care Nurse positions available in the United States, as this is a steadily growing field with a current nursing shortage.
Is Employment As a Cardiac Nurse Right For You?
When it comes to whether or not employment as a Cardiac Nurse is a good fit for you, It’s important to consider its many requirements. While employment as a Cardiac Nurse requires a minimum of a two-year diploma plus licensing in the field of nursing, a Cardiac Nurse will often not find themselves with the salary that they desire unless they complete further schooling and several hours of Continuing Education and training.
Looking for more options when it comes to careers in healthcare? Have a look at the best medical careers in 2021.