How To Become a Cath Lab Nurse and Their Primary Duties

Cardiac cath labs are specialized hospital rooms where cardiologists conduct minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. A cath lab nurse assists doctors and provides care to cardiac patients during the post-catheterization recovery period.

Cath labs use imaging equipment designed to examine the heart’s arteries to ensure there is adequate blood flow to and from the heart. It can help identify blockages and other arterial damage that require stenting or bypass surgery to correct.

Working as an Registered Nurse (RN) in the Cardiac Cath Lab | Presbyterian Healthcare Services

What do cardiac cath lab nurses do?

Here are some of the major responsibilities that cath lab nurses fulfill daily:

What is a cardiac cath lab nurse?

A cardiac cath lab nurse is a professional who helps assist doctors in certain medical procedures. One of the primary procedures they assist in is the cardiac catheterization, which involves inserting a catheter into a heart vessel or chamber to help diagnose certain heart disease or ailments. However, cardiac cath lab nurses can continue to develop their occupational skills and assist with other procedures that help with coronary arteries. These procedures often take place in laboratories where nurses can use modern technology and equipment to help them perform their duties.

How to become a cath lab nurse

Here is a list of steps you can follow to help you start the cath lab nursing career:

1. Earn an undergraduate degree

Before specializing as a cath lab nurse, you must first start your career as a registered nurse (RN) by attending an undergraduate nursing program. Most nursing programs provide you with a beneficial understanding of concepts youll use during your nursing career, including nutrition, microbiology and dosage calculations. Though its possible to become an RN with an associate degree, most individuals who pursue a nursing specialization pursue a bachelor of science in nursing because it allows them to develop the necessary skills and knowledge for the role, as well as add to their credentials when applying for future positions.

2. Pass nursing certification

After finishing your undergraduate degree, youll have to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to start your nursing career. The exam often tests your knowledge and understanding of nursing practices, as well as your ability to use critical thinking skills and make quick judgements. These tested skills will often be necessary for a career as an RN because youll have to think quickly in order to help patients effectively. They often administer the test on a computer that provides the tester with questions of varying difficulty, depending on how well theyre performing.

3. Gain relevant experience

Before specializing in a certain area of practice, it can be important for registered nurses to first gain relevant experience in their desired field. For aspiring cath lab nurses, this can include working closely with cardiologists, which can help them develop understanding for the position and network efficiently with other heart professionals. When networking, it can be important for you to mention your career aspirations and ask supervisors or physicians about opportunities to learn more about the cath lab position. This can help employers remember you for opportunities and allow you to gain influential knowledge for your future role.

4. Obtain cardiac vascular certification

Though its not always necessary, some hospitals and healthcare facilities often require cath lab nurses to obtain a certification in advanced cardiac life support. You can often get this certification through an exam thats offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). It can also be beneficial to obtain a certification in basic life support, which can help you develop key knowledge for the advanced life support examination. After receiving your certification, most hospitals require that you renew it every five years.

Salary and job outlook

Here are a few skills that cath lab nurses use throughout their career:


Communication is an important skill for cath lab nurses to have because it can allow them to effectively relay information to physicians, as well as the patient and their family. For physicians, its important for cath lab nurses to provide them with all the necessary patient history before and after procedures. For the patient and their family, its important for cath lab nurses to provide quality education on certain medical procedures and knowledge so they can take care of themselves after being discharged.


When monitoring the patients vital signs, sedation levels and examining the patient for signs of illness, its crucial that cath lab nurses have impressive detail-oriented skills. By staying highly observant and focusing on the causes to certain problems, cath lab nurses can develop impressive detail-oriented techniques that can be a valuable asset throughout their career.

Active listening

Cath lab nurses often use active listening skills when theyre taking orders from physicians or receiving important information from patients. Its important, when being given a task or assignment, that cath lab nurses actively listen to what doctors are telling them and make sure theyre giving patients the right treatment or medication. By actively listening to patients, cath lab nurses can also better understand whats ailing them, which can help them more accurately diagnose their diseases or illnesses.


What experience do you need to be a cath lab nurse?

A minimum of 2 years of nursing experience. A minimum of 2,000 clinical practice hours in cardiac-vascular nursing in the last 3 years. Completed 30 hours of CEU for cardiac-vascular nursing within the last 3 years.

Is cath lab nursing stressful?

Cath lab nurses may experience stress during complicated medical procedures and care plans.

What makes a good cath lab nurse?

The registered nurse who moves to the cath lab generally has previous critical care skills and education, with a good handle on arrhythmias, 12-lead EKG, and hemodynamics. All of these things make him or her a valuable asset in the cath lab environment.

What is a cath lab nurse?

A cardiac cath lab nurse is a Registered Nurse who specializes in assisting with catheterizations. They monitor and examine patients prior to procedures, as well as during and after. They also administer medications and assist the medical team in whatever they may need during the procedure.

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