"Cardiovascular nursing is an extremely broad field," says Lynne T. Braun, CNP, FAAN, FAHA, PhD, president of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. (Braun, a 32-year veteran in the field of cardiovascular nursing, is also a nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Institute and a professor at Rush University College of Nursing, both in Chicago.) She goes on to say that cardiovascular nurses may work with critical care patients who've had an acute cardiac event or cardiothoracic surgery; patients with a chronic cardiac condition such as heart failure, either in a hospital or outpatient setting; or patients needing cardiac rehabilitation, either in the hospital after a cardiac event or surgery, or in an outpatient setting, which includes exercise rehabilitation and risk factor education.
Braun's own practice has evolved from critical care to preventive cardiology. At this point, she says, "What's most rewarding is educating my patients about their risk factors for heart disease and helping them become successful in reducing their risk. A huge challenge for me is helping my patients understand that cardiovascular disease is preventable through healthy lifestyle practices-and sometimes, through the use of medications. Patients may be unwilling to commit to necessary lifestyle changes such as dietary portion control and regular physical activity." Braun sees the adverse effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes-both increasingly common-on cardiovascular health in many of her patients.
Current hot topics in the field? "Quality of life in heart failure patients; psychosocial risk factors for cardiovascular disease; strategies for reducing obesity in adults and children; sleep disturbances and cardiovascular disease; device therapy for heart failure; gender differences in symptoms of cardiovascular disease, delays in care, treatment, and outcomes; and racial and ethnic disparities in care," Braun says.
If you're considering cardiovascular nursing as a career, Braun notes, a love of learning and a commitment to stay current in cardiovascular innovations are crucial. Because this field constantly changes, Braun recommends getting board certified and subscribing to key journals and joining professional organizations that can help you stay up to date. She adds that although some employers require that new hires have at least a year or two of medical/surgical experience, in her view, a nurse who's interested in cardiovascular nursing can enter the field right out of nursing school. Wages for cardiovascular nursing are comparable to those in other nursing fields, she says; nurses who have advanced degrees, are certified, or work with acute cardiac patients or in outpatient cardiology practices typically earn more.
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