Cath Lab Nursing: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
The leading cause of death in the United States population is heart disease. Among the most effective procedures for cardiovascular disease are those performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, where cath lab nurses are integral members of the team.
Cath lab nurses assess patients, assist with procedures and monitor recovering patients. They are frequently responsible for administering sedation and work collaboratively as part of a healthcare team.
Cardiovascular disease accounts for over $350 billion in total costs, over $215 billion in direct costs. As a result, hospitals are dedicating an increasing amount of their budgets to cardiac care units, which perform over 1,000,000 catheterizations per year, as well as additional procedures. In combination with a national nursing shortage, there is a rapidly increasing demand for experienced cath lab nurses.
What is a Cath Lab Nurse?
Cath lab nurses are part of the team that provides cardiac catheterizations, as well as other diagnostic procedures and interventions, for patients being assessed or treated for cardiovascular disease.
Their responsibilities start as soon as the patient arrives at the cardiac cath lab, when they will examine the patient and monitor them ahead of their procedure. They are responsible for providing medications, educating, monitoring and recording vital signs. They act as an advocate for the patient.
Cath lab nurse duties can include:
- Examine and assess patient prior to catheterization and other procedures
- Assist in diagnostic and interventional procedures
- Administer patient medications and sedation
- Maintain patient charts and documentation
- Monitor for adverse signs indicating emergent situations
- React to emergency needs
- Circulate and scrub during cardiac cath lab procedures
- Examine and assess patient after catheterization and other procedures
- Educate patients and families, including instruction for medication, diet and exercise
Cath lab nurses work in hospital and cardiac specialty center cardiac cath labs. There are also cath lab nursing opportunities in private clinics. Most procedures are scheduled, which generally offers cath lab nurses the ability to work regular hours. However, they are generally assigned on-call hours and must be available for emergent situation.
Cath Lab Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications & Professional Groups
Cath lab nurses require highly specialized skills. As a result the position is generally reserved for nurses who also have extensive experience as an NCLEX-RN, in addition to an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Most hospitals prefer that cath lab nurses have a high level of competence in cardiac care or experience working in an intensive care unit.
Cath lab nurses should be certified in advanced cardiac life support. Additional certifications and experience may be required by potential employers, including knowledge of cardiovascular anatomy, physiology, hemodynamic and rhythm interpretation. Nursing interested in the cath lab should also have the Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification or the Cardiac Medicine Certification. Most importantly, cath lab nurses need both didactic education and hands-on experience working in the cath lab. This direct experience is best obtained through training programs offered by their employers. These programs provide the highly specific knowledge that cath lab nurses need in order to be able to work independently in a cath lab environment.
Nurses who choose to work in the cardiac cath lab will gain invaluable knowledge, support, and networking opportunities through membership in a variety of professional associations, including the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, The American Nurses Association Society for Vascular Nursing and the American College of Cardiology Foundation. Additional resources include the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing and the Cath Lab Digest.
Cath Lab Nurse Salary & Job Growth Potential
The highly specific duties of cath lab nurses and the essential nature of the services they provide has led to cath lab nurses being among the most highly compensated nurse specialties available to Registered Nurses.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Nurse in the United States is $122,190, with salaries as high as $164,000 being paid in some locales. Earnings are determined by a number of factors, including the amount of experience and education an individual nurse possesses and the location of the facility.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Nurse in the United States is $122,190.
Compensation for cath lab nurses includes benefits like health care and vacation time. Cath lab nurses will also earn shift differentials for hours that they work on-call, as well as overtime pay.
Top Paying Cities for Cath Lab Nurses in 2021
According to Indeed.com, here are the best paying cities for case management nurses in 2021:
- Los Angeles, CA: $141,097 per year
- Chicago, IL: $140,202 per year
- Atlanta, GA: $138,245 per year
- Columbia, MO: $127,841 per year
- Phoenix, AZ: $127,834 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being a Cath Lab Nurse
Pros of Cath Lab Nursing
- Satisfaction of working collaboratively to help patients to improve
- Ability to work regular shifts
- Job provides the opportunity to work in a highly structured, predictable environment
Cons of Cath Lab Nursing
- Frequently required to work on-call hours
- Shifts can be long and require many hours of standing
- Some risk of health problems from exposure to radiation
Nursing as a Travel Cath Lab Nurse
Cath lab nurses must be able to fulfill basic nursing care while at the same time assisting physicians with highly specialized procedures. The job requires attention to details and the ability to focus, as well as a strong interest in advocating for patients who are undergoing procedures that evoke feelings of anxiety, depression and fear. Cath lab nurses are with their patients before, during and after their procedures, providing both reassurance and education. These skills are both highly prized and highly mobile, which means cath lab nursing is a specialty well-suited to travel nursing.
Travel cath lab nurses are able to fit into new work environments easily, with little time needed to learn the unique procedures of an individual lab. Additionally, their presence is appreciated, especially in short-staffed cath labs.
Travel cath lab nurses receive generous pay that is enhanced with tax-advantaged bonuses, as well as housing and travel allowances that add appeal to the opportunity to visit new and exciting locales.