How to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

Image of professional woman smiling at camera
Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A cardiac nurse practitioner listens to a patients heartbeat.

A cardiac nurse practitioner (NP) is a highly skilled healthcare professional who blends their nursing background with advanced cardiovascular training to help patients improve their heart health and quality of life. With cardiovascular diseases affecting nearly half of American adults, your expertise will be in high demand.

If you’re interested in joining this rapidly growing field, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to kick-start your journey as a cardiovascular nurse practitioner.

Cardiac Nurse Practitioner: Career Snapshot

  • Mission: Improve the heart health and well-being of patients with cardiac conditions.
  • Responsibilities: Assess, diagnose, and treat heart diseases.
  • Workplaces: Cardiology units, outpatient clinics, cardiac rehabilitation centers, and private cardiology practices.
  • Path: Nursing degree and cardiology nursing experience, followed by master’s degree.
  • Length of study: 6 to 8 years.

What Is a Cardiac NP?

A cardiovascular nurse practitioner is a healthcare professional who has completed the advanced training and clinical experience required to provide comprehensive care to patients with various cardiac conditions.

Cardiac NPs work closely with cardiologists and other members of the healthcare team and may prescribe medications. If they live in a full-practice authority state, these NPs can work as primary care providers and even have their own practices.

Curious about the patients you’ll encounter in this field? Some of the most common heart conditions affecting Americans include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure
  • Atrial and ventricular arrhythmias
  • Peripheral artery disease

What Does a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Do?

In addition to typical nursing tasks like head-to-toe assessments, medication administration, and documentation, cardiovascular nurse practitioner responsibilities typically include:

  • Interpreting electrocardiograms (ECGs) to detect cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic changes, and conduction abnormalities.
  • Performing stress tests, such as exercise treadmill tests, to evaluate cardiac function.
  • Tracking cardiac rhythm through telemetry and Holter monitors.
  • Assisting in the insertion of cardiac devices, including temporary pacing wires and pacemakers.
  • Administering antiarrhythmics and thrombolytics.
  • Assisting with invasive cardiac procedures, such as cardiac catheterization.
  • Communicating with other members of the healthcare team, including cardiology nurses, anesthesiology professionals, and the post-operative care team.

Where Can a Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner Work?

Cardiac NPs can work in pediatric, adult, or geriatric settings. Here’s where they commonly work:

How to Become a Cardiac NP

It’s a journey to become a cardiovascular nurse practitioner — years of schooling, many clinical hours, and several licensure exams. Let’s explore the key steps to get into this meaningful nursing specialty:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

Start with obtaining a nursing degree — either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. While a BSN is often preferred to get admitted to NP programs, some nurses choose to pursue an ADN degree for quicker entry into the field. Afterward, you’ll be able to advance your education through bridge programs such as RN to BSN or ADN to MSN pathways.

2. Obtain a Nursing Licensure

Your next step is to transition from a fresh-out-of-nursing-school graduate to a registered nurse (RN). This involves passing the NCLEX-RN national examination and fulfilling all documentation requirements set by your state’s nursing board.

3. Gain Experience

Before stepping into cardiology nursing, consider getting experience in specialties that can equip you with a broad range of essential nursing skills, such as:

4. Enroll in a Graduate Program

There are two graduate degrees you can pursue to become a nurse practitioner: a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Look for cardiac nurse practitioner programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

5. Complete Supervised Clinical Hours

Clinical training is essential for earning your NP degree. It involves hands-on application of what you’ve learned in class. You’ll work with a precepting NP in your specialty area. The number of clinical hours varies, though programs typically require a minimum of 500 hours.

6. Obtain Cardiac Nurse Practitioner Certification

After finishing your NP education, you’re set to take the national board certification exam in your specialty area. Then, you can pursue one of the available certifications for cardiology NPs:

How Long Does It Take to Become a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a cardiac NP usually takes about six years of schooling, followed by two years of clinical experience to qualify for the CVNP-BC exam, the most common certification option in the specialty. Here’s a general timeline:

  • Step 1: BSN — 4 years
  • Step 2: MSN — 2 years
  • Step 3: CVNP-BC — 2 years

How Much Do Cardiac Nurse Practitioners Make?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t report on a cardiac nurse practitioner salary, the average NP salary in the U.S. is about $124,680 per year. NPs in general medical and surgical hospitals are likely to make more. Additionally, your earnings can vary depending on your level of education, certifications, years of experience, and the geographical region where you work.

The top-paying states for NPs are:

Becoming a Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner: FAQs

Can I become an FNP first and then specialize in cardiology?

Yes, you can become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) first and later specialize in a specific area such as cardiology. Many nurse practitioners begin with a generalist track like FNP and then pursue further specialization through additional education or training.

Can I work in a cardiology setting as an FNP?

While it’s possible to work in certain specialties with an FNP certification, many employers prefer candidates with specialized training and credentials specific to the area of practice. Certification may be necessary for certain specialties. Keep in mind, requirements may vary depending on the employer and state.

What are the requirements for the CVNP-BC exam?

To qualify for the CVNP-BC exam, several criteria typically need to be met:

  • Hold an active NP license.
  • Have a master’s degree.
  • Gain 2 years of experience as an NP in either non-acute or acute care cardiology.
  • Possess the physical capability to carry out all job functions.

How can I advance my career as a cardiac NP?

You can enhance your credibility by attending conferences, workshops, and taking continuing education courses. You can also join relevant professional organizations:

  • American College of Cardiology (ACC)
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

What is the job outlook for cardiology NPs?

The job outlook for nurse practitioners in general is overwhelmingly promising, with employment expected to grow 38% in the next decade — much faster than average for all occupations.

Find Your Best Job Match on IntelyCare

Interested in becoming a cardiac nurse practitioner or exploring other specialties? We offer personalized job matching for NPs, RNs, CNAs, and other healthcare professionals looking for the best-fitting roles across the country.