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ICU vs ER experience for employment at a Cath Lab

Cardiac   (706 Views | 2 Replies)

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I am a nursing student and I am about to graduate with my BSN. I took a cardiac cath lab specialty rotation last semester and have been in love ever since. My mind could definitely change when I actually get into my career, but as of right now, the cath lab is where my mind is set. So, I would really appreciate any advice from current nurses that work or have worked in a cath lab!

1.) Be brutally honest, what are the best and worst parts of the specialty when compared to other areas.

2.) I understand that many cath labs require ICU or ER experience prior to going in. Of the two, which would be the better option for pre-cath lab experience? I've heard ER more, but I've also seen very successful cath lab nurses that came from an ICU. 

Other than that, any other advice or tips would be appreciated!


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ICUman has 5 years experience and specializes in Cardiac Cath Lab.

1,656 Posts; 54,099 Profile Views

I would say the only downsides are taking call overnight, if you dislike that. That means coming in for STEMI's at 2 am and such. Another potential downside, constant radiation exposure...although you can ensure safety with properly fitted lead and careful maneuvering within the lab. 

The upsides all trump the few downs. 

I personally came from ICU prior to Cath Lab. My coworkers all have either ER or ICU exp. prior to CL. However, the ICU nurses, including myself, came from an open heart CVICU with CABG, valves, TAVR experience, etc. 

Cath Labs will vary, however my hire manager said recovering open hearts was a piece of my ticket in getting hired. You will love the Cath Lab when you make it there one day. It's an incredible, little known, place for nurses to work. If you ask me, one of the best kept secrets. I will never leave. 

Ideally your prior position will have you well versed in 12 lead EKG interpretation, decent IV skills, exposure to using a defibrillator, and exposure working with vasoactive, titratable medication on a regular basis.

Edited by ICUman

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Wolf at the Door has 7 years experience.

1,041 Posts; 19,753 Profile Views

ICU experience is needed.

At my facility I go to cath lab and titrate drips for the ER and Med surg trained cath lab nurses. 

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