A cath lab RN holds a registered nursing license and has received advanced training in conditions of the cardiovascular system. This advanced training prepares the nurse for helping medical staff diagnose and treat such conditions in a special examination room called a cardiac cath lab. This type of nurse helps with routine and emergency procedures and provides before and after care as well. A cath lab nurse can find a job in a hospital, clinic or diagnostic imaging facility.
In this job, you will spend part of your time preparing patients for upcoming procedures. This can include helping doctors perform assessments prior to heart-related procedures and even conducting some assessments on your own. Before a procedure, for example, you might have to assess a patient's vital signs and perform tests to check his heart rate and oxygen intake. Such assessments provide physicians with information they need to begin examinations and decide whether and how to proceed with diagnosing, testing and treating a patient. In addition, you may have the responsibility of making sure patient specimens such as blood and urine are collected; getting consent forms signed; and starting intravenous (IV) lines for the administration of medications and fluids.
As a cath lab nurse, you will assist doctors and other medical staff in caring for patients. This might include procedures used to diagnose, test and treat heart-related conditions and their symptoms. You will work alongside doctors who are performing catheterizations, which involves threading a small tube into a patient's heart; angioplasties, which doctors use to treat blocked arteries; and implantation of pacemakers, which help keep a patient's heart beating properly. You might also administer medication as instructed by a doctor.
Cath lab nurses typically have a good deal of patient contact before, during and after cardiac cath lab procedures. Your job likely will include not only monitoring the health of patients but also providing reassurance and insight into what to expect of a procedure and recovery. You will likely interact with and help educate both the patient and concerned family members. Often, you will relay patient concerns and questions to physicians. Doctors will also rely on you to inform them of changes in the patient's condition. For instance, you will need to inform doctors of unexpected pain, increasing pain, low oxygen levels or blood pressure, unexpected pallor, or infection at surgery or testing sites. Likewise, you will need to keep physicians abreast of side effects of procedures, the development of fever and unusual bleeding. In keeping with physician instructions, you will provide treatment in these cases.
In a cath lab nursing position, you will keep records on patient conditions and any steps you have taken for the patient's care. This includes updating patient charts with vital sign information, details of the patient's appearance and mood, and treatments and medications you have administered in the course of care. Other medical staff members will use the records you keep in assessing the patient, providing additional care, diagnosing the patient, determining the need for additional medication and dealing with complications. For example, a doctor might determine that an individual needs a different dosage of cardiac medication if your notes indicate the patient has experienced side effects on the current dosage.
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