A cardiac catheterization lab is a specialty department of a hospital where patients undergo diagnostic and treatment procedures for heart problems. Physicians, technicians, and nurses work together to ensure that patients receive quality care. Nurses are responsible for many important duties, including counseling patients, administering medication, and assisting doctors during delicate procedures. A person who wants to become a cardiac cath lab nurse needs to complete a degree program, obtain registered nurse credentials, and participate in a hospital-based training program. After receiving training, an individual can take a certification exam and begin working independently.
The first step to become a cardiac cath lab nurse is to earn a nursing degree from an accredited school. An individual can pursue a two-year associate's degree from a community college or vocational school, or a four-year bachelor's degree from a university. Most future cath lab nurses choose to earn bachelor's degrees, since the longer program provides students with more detailed instruction. During nursing school, a student learns about anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and basic nursing techniques. Most schools allow students to participate in practical internships so they can gain experience in the field.
After completing a degree, an individual can take a licensing examination to earn registered nurse credentials. The written or computer-based registered nurse exam tests a person's knowledge of patient care, common tasks, medical terminology, and hospital ethics. Most new registered nurses begin their careers in critical care centers of general hospitals to gain experience in a fast-paced nursing setting. After working as a registered nurse for several months or years, a person can look into specialized programs at local hospitals and heart clinics.
Cath lab training programs at most hospitals involve classroom studies as well as several hundred hours of supervised nursing in actual cath lab settings. During training, a nurse is introduced to different cardiac conditions and learns about the tools and techniques used to remedy them. The length of training can vary, but a person who wants to become a cardiac cath lab nurse can usually expect to spend at least six months in a program before being allowed to work unsupervised.
Many new cardiac cath lab nurses choose to take voluntary certification exams after finishing training to improve their credentials. Certification tests are administered by respected regional and national governing boards to ensure that nurses are fully prepared for the complex responsibilities of cardiac care. A newly certified nurse usually enjoys many employment opportunities at general hospitals and specialty clinics.