Cardiac Catheter Laboratory Nursing

Nurse Carla is busy preparing to go on night duty. Making sure that her uniform is neat and that she looks presentable, she puts on a bright smile and heads to the hospital. Back when she was still a kid, she dreamt of becoming a doctor, a “heart” doctor to be specific. She even remembers those times when she and her playmates played “make believe” and dressed up as someone they would like to be when they grow up and in those times she always ended up dressing like a doctor and treating her playmates as her patients.

As years went by, her priorities changed and instead of entering med school, she became a nurse instead. She’s happy being a nurse and being able to help the sick. However, certain longings never change. There is still something within her that still wants to pursue what she originally wanted to be. But she feels like she doesn’t want to enter med school anymore, it’s like she wants to still be a nurse, but expand her horizon. So, how will she be able to do that? A specialization in nursing? But what will she choose? Perhaps something that’s close to her heart, something related to cardiology. Cardiac Catheter Lab Nursing, maybe?


What are Cardiac Catheter Lab Nurses?

To give you an overview, cardiac catheterization is procedure wherein a catheter is inserted into a chamber or vessel of the heart. Usually for the purpose of diagnosing heart conditions, or as treatment.

Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses are Registered Nurses who assist doctors performing these procedures. When you are one, you can even specialize further in coronary catherization, which are procedures that involve coronary arteries, and take place in state of the art labs. In this specialty, you’ll have the opportunity to work with the latest technology in cardiac care.

As a Cardiac Cath Lab nurse, your duties and responsibilities include assisting with angioplasties, valvuloplasties and stent placements and helping implant pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibillators (ICDs). He/she may also be responsible for all things related to patient care and medications during all of the day’s procedures, performing all of the charting during the case, monitoring patient status during the procedure (vital signs, oxygen, and heart rhythm), as well as giving any emergency medications (as ordered) that may be needed during the case.

As an advocate for the patient, the nurse will greet the patient when they first come into the cath lab. He or she will answer questions and educate the patient about what is planned and make sure they have informed consent.


How to become one

So, after reading about the background of the job, you think this is the job for you. But the next question is, how do you join the bandwagon?

First, one must be an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduate and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to be a Registered Nurse. After which, you can start working and gaining hospital experience. You may be asked to work at the general floor, CCU, ICU, or a cardiac floor of a hospital before being accepted as a CCL nurse, and gain specialized skills and training in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), reading of EKGs, and strong cardiac medication knowledge.

Then, you may get your Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and renew your certification every five years.You can participate in a cardiac cath lab training program run by your hospital (the length of the program varies by hospital and state, but generally lasts about six months). After you take these steps, you are now ready to become a cardiac catheter laboratory nurse.


Sometimes, it is best to go out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. The same is true when it comes to our profession. Sometimes, we need to test ourselves and try some things that would broaden our horizon, taking up a specialization for example. They may seem impossible and really hard at first, but at the end of the day, they could be meaningful experiences contributing to both of your personal and professional growth, and someday you’ll thank yourself for taking that leap.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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