How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

How would you like to work in a health care profession where intensity is woven into the job, and no two days are alike?  The job of a cardiac nurse practitioner (NP) is one such role. Cardiac NPs work in the field of cardiology where they may specialize in treating diseases of the heart, blood vessels, and circulatory system.

As an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), a cardiac NP possesses the extensive education and clinical experience required to take on responsibilities such as diagnosing patients or prescribing medications (depending on the state in which they practice). Read on for an overview of how to become a cardiac nurse practitioner, along with resources for you to explore as you plan your career.

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  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Part-time, full-time, and extended plans of study

Earn your MSN online from USC’s Top-Ranked School of Social Work.

  • Prepares RNs to pursue board certification as family nurse practitioners
  • Earn a CCNE-accredited MSN in as few as 21 months
  • Choose from part-time and full-time study options

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Steps to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a cardiac NP doesn’t happen overnight—it takes years of schooling, many clinical hours, and national and state licensure to get there. And with good reason: the position may require you to deal with patients who have high-risk or life-threatening heart conditions such as arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, or heart failure.

There are plenty of bachelor’s and master’s degree options with specialties in cardiology that may help you check off the education and clinical requirements for this role. Below is an overview of the common steps to become a cardiac NP.

1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN). 

An RN license can be obtained upon the completion of a registered nurse program and gaining licensure. Even at an entry level, nurses must commit to protect the public. All registered nurses must pass NCLEX-RN.

2. Apply to a Cardiac NP program. 

Look for a graduate or postgraduate program that aligns with your career goals and lifestyle needs. But more importantly, the program should be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

3. Gain work experience in the field. 

To become a cardiac NP, nurses must become specialists in cardiac care. Aspiring cardiac NPs must amass 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiac-vascular nursing and complete 30 hours of continuing education over the course of three years for the ANCC certification. 

4. Become a certified cardiac nurse in your desired state. 

Certification requirements vary by state so be sure to find out what your state licensing board requires of you before you embark on your educational journey. It’s also important that you stay on top of your certification. You are required to renew board and state nursing certifications every 5 years. This ensures your knowledge is current and that you are well-equipped to deliver patient care. As an NP, you are expected to manage your renewal dates and renew ahead of expiration.

5. Get certified as a cardiac nurse. 

Once these requirements have been completed, candidates may qualify to sit for a cardiac nurse exam—either the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC) or the American Board of Cardiovascular Credentialing’s Cardiovascular Nursing Level I (CVRN-BC).

Should I Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a cardiac nurse practitioner may be a rewarding—albeit challenging— nursing career path. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults of all backgrounds. Cardiac NPs play a vital role in helping patients who are at risk of developing a form of heart disease, or who are already living with it. Additionally, as a cardiac NP, you may have the opportunity to play a life-saving role for acute patients who have experienced a heart attack. Consider the gravity of these responsibilities when you’re making a decision. The cardiac NP can be a demanding role, but one that enables you to make a genuine impact on the lives of patients. 

Cardiac Nurse Certification 

The cardiac nurse certification may help you to progress in your career. They may also help you develop a deeper knowledge that allows you to better care for patients. There are several options for you to become certified. 

Below are a few certifications to consider.

Name of Certification: American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) — Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Hold a current RN license (or international equivalent)
  • Have completed two years of full-time nursing
  • Have 2,000+ hours of clinical practice in cardiovascular nursing (completed in the last three years)
  • Have 30+ hours of continuing education in cardiovascular nursing (completed in the last three years)

Fees: 

  • Non-ANCC member – $395
  • American Nurses Association members – $295
  • Society for Vascular Nursing members – $340
  • Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association members – $340

Renewal:

  • Renewal is required every five years
  • Renewal fees are as follows:
    • Non-ANCC member – $350
    • American Nurses Association members – $250
    • Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association member – $295
    • Society for Vascular Nursing member – $295

Name of Certification: American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM) — CVNP-BC (Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Level IV)

Eligibility Requirements*:
*Recommended

  • Have 2+ years of practice as a nurse practitioner OR
  • Have been a cardiac RN prior to becoming an NP
  • Extensive knowledge of the cardiology field

Fee: 

  • Non-ABCM members – $429.95

Renewal:

  • Renewal is required every 3 years
  • Renewal fees are as follows:
    • On-time renewal – $125
    • Late renewal – $150

Name of Certification: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) – Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Possess a current, unencumbered RN or APRN license in the U.S.
  • Possess a current nationally-accredited clinical nursing specialty certification
  • Have either:
    • 1,750 hours of direct care as a RN or APRN for acutely/critically ill adult patients in the last two years, with 875 accrued in the year directly before application and 875 in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac patients; OR
    • Practiced as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care with acutely/critically ill adult patients, with 144 accrued in the most recent year before application. Half of the total hours need to be in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac patients

Fee: 

  • Non-AACN members – $215
  • AACN members – $130

Renewal:

  • There are several renewal requirements certified candidates must meet for renewal—you can either earn it via continued education or by exam.
  • Renewal fees are as follows:
    • CERPs option:
      • Non-AACN members – $100
      • AACN members – $60
    • Exam option:
      • Non-AACN members – $155
      • AACN members – $110

Name of Certification: AACN – Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Possess a current, unencumbered RN or APRN license in the U.S.
  • Possess a current nationally-accredited clinical nursing specialty certification
  • Have either:
    • Provided 1,750 hours of direct care as a RN or APRN for acutely/critically ill adult patients in the last two years, with 875 accrued in the year directly before application and 875 in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within first 48 hours post-operation; OR
    • Practiced as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care with acutely/critically ill adult patients, with 144 accrued in the most recent year before application. Half of the total hours need to be in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within their first 48 hours post-operation.

Fee: 

  • Non-AACN members – $215
  • AACN members – $130

Renewal:

  • There are several renewal requirements certified candidates must meet for renewal—you can either earn it via continued education or by exam. View a complete list of requirements here
  • Renewal fees are as follows:
    • CERPs option:
      • Non-AACN members – $175
      • AACN members – $100
    • Exam option:
      • Non-AACN members – $155
      • AACN members – $110

Sponsored Online Nursing Programs

Sponsored

Earn an MS in Nursing online from Georgetown University.

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Part-time, full-time, and extended plans of study

Earn your MSN online from USC’s Top-Ranked School of Social Work.

  • Prepares RNs to pursue board certification as family nurse practitioners
  • Earn a CCNE-accredited MSN in as few as 21 months
  • Choose from part-time and full-time study options

Sponsored

State Nursing Licensure Information

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Resources

For aspiring or current cardiac NPs, there are several resources that can help you stay informed and deepen your education in the field. Below is a list of some resources and organizations for cardiac nurses and nurse practitioners. 

  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN): The AACN is one of the leading professional membership-based organizations in the nursing field. Membership can offer you networking benefits and access to other experts in cardiology. The organization also offers cardiac nurse certifications that may help you further your career.
  • American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine (ABCM): The ABCM is strictly a credentialing organization, but they offer various courses and conferences that can help you gain additional knowledge and experience as a cardiac NP. 
  • American Nursing Association (ANA): The ANA is another professional organization that connects nurses with news, education, and certification opportunities. Representing 4 million nurses in the U.S., the ANA is the largest body of professional nurses in the country.
  • American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC): The ANCC administers certifications that help nurses advance professionally and broaden their practices. 
  • The American Journal of Cardiology:  As a cardiac NP, you may choose to subscribe to a medical journal. The American Journal of Cardiology can help you to gain insight into the latest therapies, studies, and medications in the field.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC is a trusted authority for national health statistics and warnings. If you’re exploring the field of cardiac health, their site provides an overview of the breadth of heart problems Americans are facing—and the most common ailments and risk factors leading to them.
  • Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing: This medical journal contains insights and resources tailored to cardiac nurses.
  • Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA): The PCNA provides education and practice resources, along with news about new evidence-based treatments. Specializing in preventative care, the PCNA can be a resource for nurses looking to mitigate patient risks. 

FAQs

Looking for additional information about what cardiac nurses do? Explore the frequently asked questions below.

What is a cardiac nurse?

A cardiac nurse is a certified nurse who cares for patients who are at-risk of or have existing chronic or acute heart conditions. The heart is one of the most essential organs, so professionals in the field of cardiology need to have an extensive understanding of heart health, diseases, ailments, and prevention methods. 

A cardiac nurse performs many essential responsibilities that support a cardiologist. Some of a cardiac nurse’s responsibilities may include:

  • Performing assessments
  • Treating patients
  • Providing postoperative care
  • Educating patients and families about cardiovascular health.

Depending on the state in which you practice, your education level, and the licenses and certifications you hold, you may be able to diagnose patients and prescribe medications—responsibilities that typically only fall under a physician’s role. 

Because cardiac nurses perform in a specialized role, they may experience greater career advancement throughout their lifetimes. You may qualify for certain nursing licenses and positions with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. But additional education, like the master’s, can help you to fulfill higher education and clinical hours requirements for certain certifications. 

If that’s a career goal of yours, you can pursue the track to become a registered cardiac nurse and work your way up to being a cardiac nurse practitioner.

What does a cardiac nurse practitioner do?

No day-to-day will look exactly the same for a cardiac nurse—a feature of the job that many nursing professionals find appealing. Cardiac nurse practitioners possess a high level of knowledge in their field that enables them to deliver direct care and educate patients in all aspects of their heart health. Their scope of practice includes:

  • Assessing patient risks for cardiovascular disease
  • Diagnosing patient conditions
  • Using evidence-based treatments and providing low-cost care
  • Educating patients and families
  • Providing treatment and, in some cases, prescribing medication

Nurse practitioners always have the patient’s best interests in mind. They combine empathy with knowledge to deliver high-quality and cost-effective care.

Where does a cardiac nurse practitioner work?

A cardiac nurse practitioner can work in a range of health care settings with a cardiology department or specialty. This includes: 

  • Inpatient and outpatient hospitals
  • Private practices
  • Home health care services
  • Emergency rooms
  • Nursing care facilities

Cardiac NPs work with populations of all ages, though heart diseases most commonly emerge in adults. Every care setting and role will look a little different, but core responsibilities are roughly the same across cardiac NP positions.

How much does a cardiac nurse make?

Nursing salaries can vary from state to state and among specialties. Plus, there will be differences from an RN salary to an NP salary. 

The median pay for registered nurses in 2019 was $73,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual pay for nurse practitioners that same year was $109,820. These differences arguably reflect the extra time spent working and learning to become an expert in the field. Whether you decide to become an NP or continue your practice as an RN, a specialty may help you stand out in the talent pool and may ultimately lead to some professional advancement.  

Information on this page was last retrieved in June 2020.