Cardiac nurses specialise in caring for patients affected by acute or chronic diseases and disorders of the cardiovascular system. Other names for these nurses are cardiology RNs or cardiac clinical nurse specialist. They may work at hospitals, medical clinics, home care agencies, or other health care agencies. As such, their nursing roles vary widely. All cardiac nurses qualify to perform cardiovascular-related care and manage the patient's treatment plan.
Tasks all registered specialist cardiac nurses must be competent in include interpretation of electrocardiograms, monitoring a patient's vital signs and cardiac health, dealing with surgical infections, caring for wounds, handling patient arrhythmia, pain and/or neurological problems. Where appropriate or necessary, they must collaborate with other health care professionals such as the patient's cardiologist, physiotherapist, or nutritionist, to devise and implement a care and recovery plan specific for that patient.
As a specialist in cardiac nursing, the person is essential in providing nursing support for factors such as nutrition, physiotherapy, personal hygiene and daily personal care, and starting and maintaining an intravenous drip. This care may continue by the same or an external cardiac nurse in the home of the patient to ensure that he receives monitoring and assistance necessary for recovery.
Cardiac nurses are an advanced speciality of registered nursing. All registered nurses qualify to train and establish cardiac nurse training programs for other nurses. This will include both course-based teaching and on-the-job practical experience. They may also train nursing students or other caregivers. Outside the medical field, they will perform community education by giving seminars and training sessions at schools and universities, community health centres, or care homes. They may also be adept at cardiovascular epidemiology and participate in developing health policies.
Home care cardiac nurses will also act as social workers to evaluate a patient's mental and physical well-being upon return home. If the patient appears depressed or is not coping well in other ways, the nurse can request additional health care support by physicians or allied-health professionals (psychologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists). If family members help with care of the patient, the registered nurse will ensure they have proper training to do basic nursing procedures, such as wound cleaning. They also ensure the family members fully understand the patient's condition and any issues that may exacerbate it and delay recovery.
The field of cardiology also can include specific diseases or disorders, or specific work environments, such as catheterisation laboratories, coronary care units or cardiac rehabilitation units. Senior nurses may also take on administrative and/or management roles within their units.