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New grad in Cardiac Cath Lab Recovery???

Well, I think I already know the answer to this, but I will ask anyway :-) What do you nurses think about a brand new nurse starting out in the cardiac cath lab recovery area??? I have a strong interest in cardiac nursing, and I shadowed in the CCL in nursing school, which I loved. I however did not picture myself starting out in the CCL. I thought I would work in telemetry or cardiovascular stepdown first. I have been having so much trouble getting a new grad job, just like many other 2009 grads. I interviewed and shadowed in a heart failure unit / preoperative heart surgery area, which is very "bedside" nursing, but they have not made a decision yet. The same hospital called me back and told me that they would also like for me to interview and shadow in the cardiac cath lab, as they may have a position available to me in CCL recovery. Experienced nurses, including a recruiter that I know told me that they think that I will have trouble transitioning into any other unit in the future if I start out in the cath lab, because I will not develop a lot of important nursing skills. It is so rare for a new grad to get an offer from the cath lab, but I will work in recovery. I hear that it's hard to get into this particular hospital's CCL because people are very happy there and do not leave, and they have an excellent nurse manager. I know that it will not be easy, but I am up for a challenge. My concern is that I will not be able to go into anything else later on. I have not even shadowed yet, but can I please have your thoughts? Thanks a bunch!


Specializes in Cardiac.

Good luck. I spent 70 hours in the cath lab during my schooling, had 5 years of ACLS and ECG, and was on the cardiac floor working various roles for a total of 9 years prior to graduation. Even with that they wanted more experience.

I say go for it. It may be a harder transition later but from my experience, when you go to the cath lab, you never leave

Good luck. I spent 70 hours in the cath lab during my schooling, had 5 years of ACLS and ECG, and was on the cardiac floor working various roles for a total of 9 years prior to graduation. Even with that they wanted more experience.

I say go for it. It may be a harder transition later but from my experience, when you go to the cath lab, you never leave

Thanks! I am glad someone finally responded. I had my shadow day a couple of days ago and absolutely loved it. It is so hard to get a new grad position now, and although I have had three interiews, no offers. This has been the unit I have enjoyed the most and the orientation will be the best - 6 months compared to 12wks with the others. Even the staff nurses in CCL recovery seemed happier than the nurses on the other units that I have checked out.


Specializes in Cardiology, cath lab recovery, nephro,sx. Has 6 years experience.

Hey there,

Well I can give you my firsthand opinion. It's the most honest one I can give because we are now training a new grad in our cath lab recovery and I have to say that I was not happy about it at first. (Sorry!) Reason because is I think this nurse would be limited to expanding herself. Learning time management from a cardiology or med-surge floor is ESSENTIAL to your nursing career if you're going to continue in this amazing but crazy profession. Let alone, the skills you'll learn will not be the same and very limited.

On the OTHER hand...lol. The ability of the nurses to mold and train you would be beneficial because you will also learn a lot in this area and who knows? Perhaps one day you might find yourself IN the cath lab if that's where you REALLLY want to stay. (Side note**I know the cath lab prefers nurses with critical care experience.) It's not that you can't expand in this profession as our careers allow that fortunately however I think even a year or 2 on cardiology will be a great assett to you and the nurses you work with=)

It's your choice and I am fully aware of this but just giving you a perspective of the other side of things! I worked on cardiology for 6 yrs with plasty experience for 3 of those. I will continue to support her and wish you luck with whatever decision you make!! Also, you can try it and if it's NOT for you, there's nothing saying you can't go to other things! You've learned something though by trying which is also very cool=)

Thanks lilnursie, for your honest opinion, which is the only kind that I want lol. Those are pretty much the responses that I get from most people that I talk to, so I see where you are coming from. Unfortunately, I have not had an offer from that unit yet, but I think that I was the only new grad they interviewed. I did not apply to the position, but sort of fell into the interview due to some other circumstances. The posting for this position requests 3 yrs critical care exp. Also unfortunately, there is not much out there for a newbie, so if I had the offer I would probably give it my best shot.

If cardiology is what you like go straight to CCU or CVICU. there you will learn how to have time management skills plus you actually will learn real critical care. been a ccu/cvicu nurse for 8 yrs and currently in the ccl. it is absouletly essential to have critical care experience in the ccl. 98% of all the caths we do are simple diagonics and intervention. there is just not enough exposure or time to learn from those bad 2% cases. as the only nurse with critical care experience in my lab, its absolutely entertaining to see follow co-nurses run around, nervous, scared with those bad cases especially in the bad stemi patients, where a iabp can be inserted, multiple pressors used, arrhythmias, etc.... by the way er is not critical care.


Specializes in rehab-med/surg-ICU-ER-cath lab.

I hope all is well with your career search by now. But as a CCL RN with 4 years in the lab and 34 total in nursing I hope you work in the recovery area or even better in another general area position before going to the CCL. I have ICU, ER, supervisor, post-CABG unit, Med/Surg, etc. experience and the CCL was the toughest orientation I ever experienced and the first 6 months in a busy interventional lab dong 20+ cases a day +call almost did me in. I totally love my job now and it is a great place to work but solid experience in basic nursing is a must. Best of luck to you.

Thanks! I did get an offer from Cardiac cath recovery, and I start Monday. I will not work in the cath lab in this position, just prep and recovery. Precepted orientation is 6 months with several critical care classroom experiences, and I will go through CCL, CVICU, and some other units, just to see how the big picture falls into place. I believe I have a continuted mentorship for a year. I do think it's going to be challenging, but it's a challenge that I am up for! I am very hardworking and ambitious. The fact that this is an area of nursing that I LOVE to learn more and more about will give me even more drive to soak up what I am learning. This could go one of two ways: I could get in over my head and fail miserably, or I could actually succeed and it would be success at something that I love, which would be very rewarding. And I guess the third way it could go is that I think I love this area of nursing, but I learn that it's not what I thought. I guess there is only one way to find out, and I loved my shadow days there and my shadow days in nursing school. I will post an update in a few weeks to let everyone know how it's going! And thanks again for the advice :-)


Specializes in rehab-med/surg-ICU-ER-cath lab.

Congratulations on the position! It sounds like you picked the perfect situation to allow you to get a really broad based set of experiences. You seem to be very motivated and I am sure you will due great in this new job. Maybe in a couple of years you'll make the jump into the CCL. But you know, our prep & recovery unit nurses really love their jobs so who knows you may decide that is the place for you? Either way the best of luck to you!


Specializes in Invasive Cardiac/Cath Lab.

I started in the cath lab as a new grad nurse. They did a fellowship program and I spent a few weeks on a tele floor and then another 5-weeks in ICU/CVSU. I love working in the cath lab, the lead gets a little heavy on busy days but it was the best choice I ever made. Good luck to you!

Thanks Becky! I am excited and nervous. I just finished the classroom time that all nurses have to go through in the hospital (experienced or new grad). This is done with the nursing education dept. Everytime I meet a new eductator they say things like "wow, you are a new grad going into cardiovascular recovery? here? congratulations, but it's not usual. you must have really impressed them. that's going to be very intense for you." I am wondering if I should take it as a compliment or a warning lol. oh well...bring it!


Specializes in Invasive Cardiac/Cath Lab.

It is just amazing how much you learn everyday. Sometimes after a 911 case I just sit an I'm amazed at what 3-4 staff members can do after being woke up from a sound sleep at 3 am LOL. My preceptor pushed me really hard and I'm glad she did. I ask the docs questions all the time and some of our staff have been there for 20 + years so they are a good resource too.

Hope you have/had a wonderful xmas, I have been on call since 7 am yesterday and my call time is done Monday at 7...so far no pages so it's been a good holiday for me!!


Specializes in Cardiac, PCU, Ambulatory, Hospice, CM. Has 3 years experience.

Hi there,

I just had to find out how you were doing after a couple of weeks since your post?? Like yourself, I had a difficult time finding a job but a new grad position in the Cardiac Cath Pre and Post Intervention Unit opened up, I applied, and was offered the position... I absolutely love it. I can see why the staff turnover is low compared to the rest of the hospital or other units. I oriented in the cardiac step down unit for a couple of weeks and if that opportunity presents itself to you, definitely go for it... it was great experience but it was nice to have returned to back to the recovery unit!

Hey there. Just logging on for the first time in a while. I have been very busy with orientation. I have actually been spending time at home burried in the EKG books lol. I start critical care courses next week and want a head start. Floor orientation has been going well. This is my fourth week, and I feel like I have learned more than my entire nursing school experience lol. I could not ask for better preceptors. And yes, there is so much to learn, but I have another five months! There are always bad seeds everywhere so I was prepared to experience a few negative coworkers that were unsupportive, but I have not had even one yet, which is awesome. Some of my days have gone better than others, but even the days that did not go well did not end up with negative criticism, only productive learning experiences. We learned what I needed to work on, and myself and my preceptors worked together, formed a plan, and fixed it! Are you still orienting jaq96? How is it going?


Specializes in Cardiac, PCU, Ambulatory, Hospice, CM. Has 3 years experience.

Hi Miss Brittany,

I only had orientation for 3 months w/ a preceptor... I started back in August so although I am officially off of orientation, I still insist on having someone by my side during certain procedures such as: femoral arterial pressure line setup... don't want any air in those lines. Like yourself, I loved my exposure to the CCL during school and had a great interest in cardiac but did not necessarily see myself starting out in this department... in this economy, we had to grab what we could and we both lucked out. I can see working in this department long term and if that is the case, I think the experience will be very valuable... kind of a mix of critical care/outpt type of environment. I am attending a two day EKG class onsite next month and reviewing the book on my own... so I'm with you regarding learning the cardiac rhythms. I had to get my ACLS prior to accepting the position... did you have to do the same? Well, good luck! I think we are going to be just fine starting out in CCL recovery, in fact, probably better than fine:-))

It's great that you have the support from your coworkers after orientation. I am sure I will be blessed the same, which is great because as you would know by now, there is just so much.... I have not taken ACLS yet. I actually planned on taking it ahead of time to be more marketable, but I was concerned that it would not make sense without having the rhythm and basic pharmacology knowledge. Then I had my interview and mentioned that ACLS was a short term goal, and they suggested that I wait until I was on the floor for a little while, and that the hospital would pay for it. I too see myself sticking with this for a while. I love the short term acute environment. I previously worked in L&D, so I am sensing a trend lol. If I do decide to move on to something else in the future, I know that this experience will be incredibly valuable, but I plan on doing this for a long time. It's hard, and I beat myself up a lot, but my preceptors think that I am doing fine and progressing normally. But you know what they say about being your own worst critic. Not to mention, I did not expect this specialty to be easy, especially as a new grad, and everyone warned me that it was going to be very challenging.


Has 2 years experience.


How did this all work out for you? I am starting in the Cath Lab on Monday and am scared. I do not have CCU/CVU exp, but have 2 years nursing experience. Did you feel behind the 8 ball, or did you step up to the challenge?

Hi dognurse,

This message is actually perfect timing, I just finished my very last day of precepted orientation yesterday! It was extended a little bit longer because they added a ton of additional classroom experiences in addition to my floor time. Looking back, some days were much better than others, and vice versa. It was an amazing orientation though. I am nervous about being on my own next week, but not as bad as I thought I would be, because I am never really on my own there. The next month is already mapped out with resources, how many patient I will take, etc. But if it doesnt work out, management and my preceptors have shown support in my being able to come back to them and remediate if necessary.

It is the perfect mix of nursing. I was concerned that it would be too cardiac focused (which it is) so that I would not learn ANY thing else. But we get patients on ventilators and other situations waiting for critical care beds, so I really do see a lot. The most comforting things is that I am not expected to care for these patients alone until I am much more experienced, but will definiately have the experience, if that makes sense. As I said before, it's short term acute because of the outpatient setting (which could turn inpatient), but very intense and invasive often. We titrate drips unlike most outpatient settings, and I never thought that I would be pulling femoral artery lines, etc. We get basic diagnostic cases, and we get intervents, and we have patients that we have to prep for open heart surgery. We actually also prep and recover some interventional radiology patients, peripheral angiography, carotid, pacemakers, cardioversions, ablations, etc. So, we are specialized but pretty widely. And our patients are not the same. People have their own chronic conditions that we individualize our care around, so we do care for other aspects than their hearts. I was worried that I would learn cardiac, and nothing else. Many of our patients have comorbitities (diabetic, renal, etc.)

I am lucky at the specific hospital that I work in, with how much I see. We get several transfers a day from other hospitals. Something that you may already know, that I did not before starting here is that if a hospital does not have an open heart surgery center, they often cannot intervent during a cath unless it is an extreme emergency. We have OHS so we get a lot of cases that other areas may not.

Well I can go on and on and on and on, so please please tell me about where you are going. I don't think you have started yet, but have you shadowed? I am excited for you!


Specializes in Cath Lab/ ICU. Has 10 years experience.

. Something that you may already know, that I did not before starting here is that if a hospital does not have an open heart surgery center, they often cannot intervent during a cath unless it is an extreme emergency. .

That's not true at all, FYI. We have several hospitals in my town that do interventional caths with no CT surg back up.


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