Housing some of the most critically ill patients in a hospital, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is often divided into different sections. Patients in a cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) receive specialized care and treatment for heart attacks, major heart surgery and injuries involving the cardiovascular system. Each CVICU consists of a highly-trained team of doctors and nurses, including CVICU registered nurses, most of whom are women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 90 percent of all RNs in 2012 were female.
Education and Licensing
Each CVICU nurse must have a bachelor’s degree as a registered nurse from an accredited nursing school or program. The nurse must be licensed as a RN in the state where she wants to practice, which requires completing schooling and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Most hospitals require that CVICU nurses also hold current CPR certification. CVICU RNs may also have to have previous experience with cardiovascular patients, while some employers offer RNs on-the-job training. Employers also often accept ICU experience in place of cardiovascular experience.
Treating CVICU patients means administering medications, checking vital signs and alerting the doctors of any major changes in the patient’s condition. A CVICU RN acts as a liaison between the doctors and the patients, looking out for the welfare of each patient and relaying important information to the patient’s family and friends. The CVICU nurse also helps educate the family on the ongoing needs and care of the patient. Responsible for daily care, the CVICU nurse ensures each patient recovers comfortably. Along with having basic nursing know-how, CVICU nurses should know how to operate cardiovascular equipment like oxygenation machines and balloon pumps.
Nursing in general takes a special type of person and serving in a CVICU requires compassion to help critically ill patients and comfort family members and friends. CVICU RNs should be team players, but also able to work independently. Skills required for CVICU RNs include excellent written and oral communication skills and basic computer knowledge since most hospitals now keep patient records online. A CVICU nurse should be able to think quickly on her feet, make life-or-death decisions and remain calm in stressful situations.
Salary and Work Environment
Like other nurses, CVICU RNs generally work 10- to 12-hour shifts, three to four days a week. Salaries for CVICU nurses vary depending on the size of the hospital and area of the country. In Texas, for example, CVICU nurses at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas averaged $52,000 annually. Some hospitals utilize traveling nurses, who tend to make more than on-staff RNs. According to TruStaff Staffing Agency, traveling CVICU RNs working in California average $1,500 a week or almost $72,000 a year. Besides a higher salary, other perks for traveling RNs typically include traveling stipends, free private housing and health and life insurance.
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