Female nurse in the operating room

How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

An in-depth look at the duties, responsibilities, schooling, requirements, certifications, job outlook, and salary expectations for today’s Cardiac Nurse Practitioners

Female nurse in the operating room

The field of Registered Nursing offers the potential to gain diverse experience by working with a wide variety of patient groups. Based on their interests, many nurses choose to advance their careers by specializing in a particular healthcare field or patient category.

There are countless specialties to choose from, but along with every nursing specialization comes a unique set of job responsibilities, work environments, and patient groups, as well as its own educational and certification requirements.

In this article we’ll focus on the field of the Cardiac Nurse Practitioner, who help treat and prevent issues affecting the cardiovascular health of their patients. By working closely with cardiac physicians, Cardiac Nurse Practitioners help interpret lab work, radiology, and other test data to diagnose and treat a variety of heart-related illnesses. They also play an essential role directly providing heart-health education to patients and their families.

Cardiac Nursing could be a rewarding career choice for anyone who is interested in working in cardiology or feels passionately about helping people overcome a variety of cardiac conditions. Not to mention, it’s also one of the highest paid jobs in nursing.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paying nursing jobs in the U.S.)

Continue reading our guide to further explore the role of a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner. We will cover how to become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner as well as the duties, responsibilities, and salary expectations for this noble profession.

The Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Definition

What Is a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

A Cardiac Nurse Practitioner is a highly specialized Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has obtained an advanced degree in nursing.

Cardiac Nurse Practitioners are responsible for interpreting lab work, as well as radiology and other test data, including in-depth cardiovascular assessments to support in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of cardiovascular health issues. They typically work closely with physicians in providing health education to both patients and their families.

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Do?

Working with the complex cardiovascular system is a multifaceted challenge that can offer several unique opportunities for job growth and career satisfaction. While the clinical environment can vary from one employer to another, so can the nature of the work itself. Some Cardiac Nurses may choose to work in clinics or within a hospital setting, dealing with emergency issues and working in catheterization laboratories, while others may work in cardiac step-down units such as telemetry units, intermediate care units, or even outpatient cardiac rehabilitation clinics.

Most cardiac nurse practitioners end up working with adults, over the age of 65 as the risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases triple with each decade of age. Cardiac issues span all classes and cultures, so a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner will likely find themselves working with a diverse patient population.

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

As a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner working in a clinic, your days will likely include:

  • Consulting with cardiac patients and counseling on potential lifestyle changes
  • Conducting and interpreting stress tests
  • Prescribing and monitoring medications
  • Meticulous notetaking

Cardiac Nurse Practitioners working in hospital environments will conduct many of the same procedures as in a clinical environment, with added urgency and additional duties, including:

  • Monitoring patients
  • Observing trends in patients’ progress as seen in advances or declines in their health conditions

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Work?

Telehealth appointment with a medical professional

Most Cardiac Nurse Practitioners either work in a clinical or hospital environment, while many do both. Clinical environments and duties vary greatly from one employer to the next, and from one sub-specialty to another within the field of cardiovascular health.

In hospital settings, Cardiac Nurse Practitioners can find themselves working in more high-pressure situations, as well as spending a great deal of time in catheterization labs using diagnostic imaging equipment.

Other settings for Cardiac Nurse Practitioners include cardiac “step-down” units and outpatient cardiac rehabilitation clinics.  A cardiac step-down unit is a facility where patients receive a less intensive level of care and are encouraged to begin moving and walking regularly. Nurses in these units handle continuous monitoring of patients and assist in the physical process of rehabilitation.

Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

As with most nursing professions, becoming a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner requires a significant level of education and training.

Most cardiac nurse practitioners earn their certification as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) prior to going on to specialize in cardiac treatment.

Although there are currently no specific certifications for Cardiac Nursing, most candidates can seek specialized fellowship training to eventually working in a Cardiac Care Unit.

The steps required in becoming a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step to becoming a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and obtain NCLEX-RN certification to qualify as a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) in any U.S. state or territory. If you have no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program will take you three to four years to complete.

If you already have your Registered Nursing license, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are very convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to licensed vocational nurses with an associates degree in vocational nursing (ASVN). This LVN to BSN pathway will allow you to skip the first three semesters of the BSN program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

The next step to becoming a Cardiac Nurse practitioner is earning your nursing license. To do that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). With the NCLEX-RN, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

3. Gain Real-World Experience Working as a RN

In order to become a full-time Cardiac Nurse Practitioner, you must accrue 2,000 hours of RN experience in a cardiac nursing facility as well as complete 30 hours of continuing education in cardiac nursing–all within a three-year period.

4. Becoming a Certified Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

Although becoming certified is an optional step, Cardiac Nurses may complete additional certifications to validate their skills and strengthen their resumes.

Cardiac Practitioner Certification Options:

The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM) offers a Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner board certification (CVNP-BC) following a four hour exam and 175 questions.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers a Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC) for current U.S. licensed RNs and current nationally accredited clinical nursing specialty certification holders. Candidates must also have completed 1,750 hours of direct care as an RN or ARPN for acutely/critically ill patients in the last two years, or have practiced as an RN for at least five years, and a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care with acutely/critically ill patients.

The AACN also offers a Cardiac Surgery Certification for current U.S. Registered Nurses or APRN license holders, and current nationally accredited clinical nursing specialty certification holders. Candidates must also have completed 1,750 hours of direct care as an RN or ARPN for acutely/critically ill patients in the last two years, or have practiced as an RN for at least five years, and a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care with acutely/critically ill patients.

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Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Neonatal Nurses Make?

According to Salary.com, Cardiac Nurse Practitioners can expect to earn an average hourly rate of around $55 per hour, or an annual median salary of approximately $114,000 per year.

The top 10% of Cardiac Nurse Practitioners can earn as much as $129,000 or more.

Cardiac Nurses can also increase their salary by as much as 20% by continuing their schooling and becoming a Cardiovascular Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners.

What Is the Job Outlook for Cardiac Nurse Practitioners?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) is projected to increase by 45% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (4%).

Much of this growth will result from an increase in the demand for healthcare services and preventative care for the aging population in our country.

A Career as a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

Are you ready to start your career as a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

Cardiac Nurse Practitioners save, extend, and improve the lives of patients every day. It’s a challenging field, which means that the rewards in terms financial compensation and job satisfaction can be very high.

If you’re the type of caring individual who can counsel and work with patients and families when lives are literally at stake, becoming a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner could be the rewarding career path you’ve been seeking.

If this sounds like you, rise up to the challenge and begin your career journey by earning your BSN degree at Provo College.

Click here to learn more about our BSN program.

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