healthcare professional in scrubs holding out a red heart

Breaking Into Cath Lab Nursing

December 19, 2019

By Debra Wood, contributor
 

What Actually Occurs in the Catheterization Lab 

Cardiac catheterization lab (cath lab) nursing requires critical skills. These specialized nurses play major role in helping diagnose and treat patients with mild to severe cardiac conditions. As the country ages, and heart disease remains one of the top causes of death, nurses with experience in the cardiac catheterization lab will simultaneously remain in high demand in hospitals throughout the U.S. 
 
Interventional cardiology procedures take place in cardiac catheterization labs. The procedures include diagnostics, such as; identifying blocked blood vessels, conducting hemodynamic assessments, evaluating pumping function, biopsies of the heart, and assessments of the heart valve. 
 
Additionally, a cardiac catheterization is performed to treat heart disease, including a percutaneous coronary intervention, replacement or opening of narrow heart valves, insertion of pacemakers or defibrillators, and ablations to address irregular heart rhythms. Some congenital defects are also treated with a cardiac catheterization procedure. 
 
Typically, patients are sedated during the cardiac catheterization, and nurses with appropriate training, are allowed to administer moderate sedation. However, the nurse should have no other responsibilities while administering sedation to the patient to avoid compromising the assessment. The nurse should monitor for hemodynamic instability and respiratory changes or side effects, while keeping reversal agents close. 
 

Duties of a Cath Lab Nurse

Cardiac cath nurses monitor patients during and after the procedures, to assess and observe for any complications. While working in the cath lab, nurses and others on the team should wear lead aprons, radiation badges, thyroid shields and leaded glasses for those closest to the radiation source. 
 
The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions has established standards for cath labs, including nursing management and responsibilities for staff nurses. The consensus guideline recommends that the nursing staff have a minimum of one year of critical care experience, basic life support certification as well as an advanced cardiovascular life support certification. 
 
Nurses may review the pre-procedure checklist, review medical records, test results, and monitor the medications taken amongst other pertinent information. Often, RNs may start the IV line and administer medications along with participating in the pre-procedure time out. 
 

What Certifications Do You Need to Become a Cath Lab Nurse?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification, a validation of a nurse’s skills and commitment to the profession. Not all facilities require certification, but usually, nurses with certification in their specialty can earn more. 
 
Cath lab nurses assist with scheduled procedures as well as emergency procedures. A reperfusion procedure, if indicated, should occur on a patient with a ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infraction within 90 minutes of reaching the door of the facility. Therefore, specialized cardiac cath lab nurses are always on call and must be able to respond rapidly when needed.   
 
In addition to strong clinical skills, the cardiac cath lab nurse must be detail oriented, able to remain calm under pressure and work alongside a team of professionals. 
 

What You Didn’t Know about Cardiac Cath Lab Travel Nursing

Upon arrival of any cath lab assignment, travel nurses must quickly familiarize themselves with the facility. Each nurse must quickly adapt to the specific facility’s protocols and must quickly locate the emergency equipment.
 
Cardiac cath lab travel nurses should have at least one-year, with most facilities seeking two, or even three years of experience, in a cath lab providing critical care. RNs must hold basic life support and an advanced cardiovascular life support certification. 
 
Some facilities desire an RN with experience on their electronic medical record system. However, it is common for facilities to provide the appropriate EMR training for free!
 
Cath lab travel nurse wages vary by hospital, season and demand. However, they can earn on average up to $29,800 during a 13-week assignment with American Mobile. 
 
Travel nursing affords cath lab nurses the opportunity to see the country, try out different facilities, make friends in new places and avoid hospital politics. It’s a chance to care for people in a fast-paced environment and make a tremendous difference in their lives.