Heart care isn’t about valentines, but about life and death. Cardiac care is delivered across a continuum from basic telemetry monitoring to extremely high-tech, invasive critical cardiac care, according to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Nurses who provide care to patients with heart problems range from the telemetry nurse to the critical care cardiac nurse. Although many of these nurses have the same education and similar training, knowledge and duties, there are some differences.
All registered nurses begin their careers with either a degree or a diploma. A nursing diploma, awarded by hospital-based schools of nursing, is less common than it once was. The associate degree in nursing is offered by colleges, universities and some technical-vocational schools. The baccalaureate degree is available in colleges and universities. Each of these allows the graduate nurse to sit for the NCLEX-RN exams, which are required for licensure as a registered nurse. Whether your goal is telemetry or the CCU, you’ll start with this basic education.
In addition to education and licensure, many nurses choose to become certified. The AACCN notes that although certification is not legally required, it validates the nurse’s skills and knowledge. Nurses who work in telemetry units would be able to sit for the progressive care certification, while those who work in CCU would take the critical care nurse certification. Certifications are also available for both nurses in subspecialties such as remote telemetry CCU nursing, adult, pediatric or neonatal cardiac nursing. CCU nurses are also eligible for the cardiac medicine and cardiac surgery subspecialty certifications.
A Rhythm of its Own
One of the most important facets of cardiac care is the ability to monitor the electrical rhythms of a patient’s heart. Both CCU and telemetry nurses must be knowledgeable about the different rhythms of the heart and know what action to take if the rhythm changes. Both nurses use electrocardiography equipment to monitor a patient’s heart, take his blood pressure and provide basic nursing care. The CCU nurse is more likely to manage intensive care equipment such as arterial pressure monitors, ventilators or a machine called an intra-aortic balloon pump.
A Good Fit
If you’re interested in the field of cardiac care, consider your personal skills and attributes. A CCU nurse should thrive on challenge, be comfortable with complex technology and equipment and able to make quick decisions in a high-stress environment. The pace on a telemetry unit is usually less intense, but you will also care for more patients who may have a variety of medical conditions in addition to their heart problems. In either case, you’ll need compassion, a desire to help other people and good interpersonal skills, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.