GUIDE
May 3, 2021
How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, CBC

Coronary heart disease accounted for approximately 13% of deaths in the US in 2018, causing 365,744 deaths, according to the American Heart Association. Approximately every 39 seconds, an American will have a heart attack and cardiac nurse practitioners are needed to care for these patients and their families. 

In this guide you’ll learn what a cardiac nurse practitioner does, how much they make, how to become one, and more. 

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Part One What is a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

A cardiac nurse practitioner is a specialized Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who provides comprehensive care to patients who have been diagnosed with cardiac diseases. 

They care for patients with heart conditions that are structural or electrical, blood vessel diseases, and heart disease. In collaboration with other healthcare providers like physicians, they work to develop treatment plans for these patients. 

Part Two What Do Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Do?

Cardiac Nurse Practitioners perform a variety of skills generally related to the heart, blood vessels, and cardiac system including conducting physical exams, prescribing medications, and counseling patients and families regarding their disease.

Specific day to day duties for a Cardiac NP may include:

  1. Analyzing pathophysiology for various cardiovascular disease processes
  2. Assessing patient risks for cardiovascular disease
  3. Assisting with cardiac catheterization
  4. Assisting with patients requiring ECMO
  5. Conducting and interpreting stress tests
  6. Conducting cardiac research
  7. Consulting and collaborating with health care team members to assess, plan, implement and evaluate patient care plans.
  8. Consulting with cardiac patients and counseling on potential lifestyle changes
  9. Designing treatment plans
  10. Inserting central venous and arterial catheters
  11. Monitoring postoperative cardiac patients
  12. Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests
  13. Preparing patients for surgery, procedures, and post-operative plan of care
  14. Prescribing medications 

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Specialities

Cardiac nurse practitioners can serve as generalists and cover all aspects of cardiac care, or they can further specialize in one of the following cardiac interventions, areas, or disorders:

  1. Aortic aneurysms
  2. Arrhythmias
  3. Cardiac catheterization
  4. Cardiac infections
  5. Cardiac surgery
  6. Congestive heart failure
  7. Coronary artery disease
  8. Myocardial infarctions
  9. Valvular irregularities

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Where Can Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Work?

Cardiac NPs can work in a variety of locations including:

  1. Academia
  2. Ambulatory care centers
  3. Cardiac catheterization labs
  4. Cardiac intensive care units
  5. Community health centers
  6. Coronary care units
  7. Electrophysiology practice
  8. Emergency room
  9. Extended care facilities
  10. Government agencies
  11. Health department
  12. Home care agencies 
  13. Hospice
  14. Hospital
  15. Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation clinic
  16. Palliative care
  17. Private practice
  18. Public health centers
  19. Veterans’ facilities

Part Three Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for nurse practitioners in 2019 was $115,800 per year with salary ranges from $82,460 to $184,180. The BLS does not differentiate between different types of Nurse Practitioners, but Glassdoor.com reports an average salary of $110,076 per year for Cardiac NPs. 

Highest Paying States for Cardiac Nurse Practitioners

 The BLS reports that in May 2018 the highest paying states for nurse practitioners were:

  1. California: $138,660
  2. Washington: $126,920
  3. Hawaii: $124,000
  4. New Jersey: $$123,810
  5. Minnesota: $122,850

States with the Most Jobs For Cardiac Nurse Practitioners

The top five states with the highest concentration of jobs and locations for NPs include:

  1. New York
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. Florida
  5. Ohio

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Salary by Years of Experience

According to payscale.com, cardiac NPs can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.

  1. Less than 1 year of experience earn an average salary of $93,455
  2. 1-4 years of experience earn an average salary of $95,474
  3. 5-9 years of experience earns an average salary of $101,865
  4. 10-19 years of experience earns an average salary of $112,254
  5. 20+ years of experience earns an average salary of $111,407

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Part Four How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

If you want to become a cardiac nurse practitioner, you’ll need to first become a registered nurse, then advance your education with either a master's or doctorate level nurse practitioner program, and finally, earn your certification in cardiology. 

  1. Step 1: Graduate from an accredited nursing program
  2. Step 2: Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination
  3. Step 3: Gain at least 2-3 years of relevant cardiology nursing experience
  4. Step 4: Earn your NP from an accredited nursing program
  5. Step 5: Become a certified NP after passing your national examination
  6. Step 6: Earn a post-NP certification specializing in cardiology
  7. Step 7: Obtain a position as a Cardiac NP

How Long Does it Take to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

Conservatively, it takes eleven years to become a Cardiac NP.

  1. Four years to earn a BSN
  2. A minimum of two years of bedside cardiac experience
  3. Three years to earn a Cardiac NP degree
  4. Two years of a cardiac NP fellowship

Becoming board certified takes two years after completion of a cardiac NP program. A cardiac fellowship is not required but many top hospitals and cardiac programs will find ideal candidates with fellowships. 

Part Five Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Programs

Duke University and the University of South Alabama offer specialty programs for nurses interested in cardiology.

These programs are ideal because the didactic information and clinical rotations are specific to cardiology. This provides the first-hand experience needed to care for this specific group of patients.

The Mayo Clinic’s School of Health Sciences in Arizona also offers an exclusive cardiology nurse practitioner fellowship. 

1.) Duke University

The cardiac program at Duke University is considered one of the best in the country.

According to the website, the curriculum includes three specific cardiovascular courses integrated within the nurse practitioner major, provides 168 hours in the cardiovascular setting, and clinical experiences available at the Duke cardiovascular faculty in the Duke Heart Center.

2. University of Southern Alabama

The University of Southern Alabama offers a  cardiovascular subspecialty that can be added to some of their other MSN or DNP specializations, or can be earned as a post-graduate certificate. 

In this subspecialty, you’ll take the following classes:

  • Dysrhythmias and the Heart 
  • Foundations of Cardiac Care for the APN 
  • Diagnosis and Management of Acute CV Disorders
  • Diagnosis and Management of Complex CV Disorders

3. The Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in Arizona 

The Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in Arizona offers a cardiology nurse practitioner fellowship to two students each year.  

According to the website, “the program provides mentored clinical experience in all aspects of adult cardiovascular disease management, including cardiovascular diagnostics, cardiac health and performance, interventional cardiology, vascular disease, electrophysiology, structural heart disease, advanced heart disease failure, cardiac transplantation, adult congenital heart disease, and cardiothoracic surgery. Rotations may occur in the inpatient or outpatient setting.”

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Part Six Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Certification

The American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine Inc. offers the Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Level IV (CVNP-BC) examination to qualified individuals. This is the only certification exam for cardiac NPs. 

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam Eligibility

In order to be eligible for the CVN-BC examination, you’ll need to meet the following eligibility requirements:

  1. Current, active, unencumbered license as a registered nurse in the US, its territories, or Canada
  2. Graduate degree from accredited nurse practitioner program with concentration in adult (primary or acute), family (across the lifespan), gerontology, or women’s health
  3. Minimum of two years cardiac experience

Part Seven What is the Career Outlook for a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career outlook for NPs is excellent. As of 2019, there were 211,300 Nurse Practitioners in the United States, while in 2029 there is an expected need of 322,000 providers. This is a 45% growth which is must faster than other healthcare careers. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease and about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

The need for cardiac NPs will only continue to grow. As more and more Americans are diagnosed with cardiac disease, Nurse Practitioners will be needed to care for these patients. Cardiac patients are complex and require extensive care and cardiac NPs can help fill the void between cardiologists and patients. 

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Part Eight What are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

CEU hours will vary based on the state of licensure. For each state an individual is licensed, CEU hours will be required. Generally, NPs are required a minimum of 75 contact hours of continuing education in the specialty area (cardiology). 

Board-certified Cardiac NPs can utilize continuing education hours for both the certification renewal and NP renewal. It is important to confirm with the state board of nursing to determine the specific number of hours required for renewal. 

Additionally, even though they are functioning in an APRN role, they must maintain their RN certification.  In order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee. Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal.

A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found (here). 

Part Nine Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

  1. American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  2. Doctors of Nursing Practice
  3. American College of Cardiology
  4. American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine
  5. The American Journal of Cardiology

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Part Ten Other Nurse Practitioner Specialities

  1. General Nurse Practitioner
  2. Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
  3. Family Nurse Practitioner
  4. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  5. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  6. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  7. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  8. Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
  9. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
  10. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  11. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  12. Oncology Nurse Practitioner

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