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6 Essential Skills of a Cath Lab RN

Cath lab RNs need certain skills to excel


6 Essential Skills of a Cath Lab RN

By Leigh Morgan, contributor

Slicker et al. estimate that more than one million cardiac catheterizations are performed each year in the United States, creating many opportunities for nurses to build rewarding careers. Because working in a cath lab requires specialized skills, some hospitals have a shortage of qualified nurses to assist with cardiac procedures. As a result, cath lab nursing can be especially lucrative for travel nurses. Read on to find out the six essential skills you need to succeed as a cath lab RN.

Excellent communication skills

The success of the cath lab team is dependent upon each team member's ability to communicate effectively. From a professional standpoint, communication can improve efficiency and reduce the risk of medical errors. Good communication can even improve the financial performance of a medical facility, according to Bricker and Dombrowicki. Strong communication skills are also necessary for putting patients at ease during what may be one of the most stressful times in their lives. You must be able to explain the procedure, answer the patient's questions and address any concerns the patient has about his or her plan of care.

Time management

A cardiac catheterization is an expensive procedure, which means wasted time can have a detrimental effect on a hospital's bottom line. In a study published in the journal Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy, Slicker et al. determined that the facilities included in the study had an average daily volume of 7.8 cardiac catheterizations. As a cath lab nurse, you must be able to keep the team on track, identify potential bottlenecks and intervene quickly if a problem arises. Otherwise, your facility's daily volume is likely to decrease, resulting in scheduling problems and reduced revenue.

Emergency intervention

Although many patients experience no complications during or after their procedures, some require emergency intervention from the cath lab team. If this happens, you must be able to respond quickly and calmly, putting the patient at ease while also ensuring that the patient's vital functions are restored as soon as possible. Several complications can occur during this procedure, including bleeding from the artery used to introduce the catheter, vascular dissection, blood clots, stroke and heart attack. You may be called upon to deliver life support or deliver life-saving medications while the patient is in crisis.

If you have what it takes to work as a cath lab nurse, visit the MedTravelers job board to search for openings.


Documentation is important for all nurses, but it's especially important in the cath lab. As a cath lab nurse, you may have to explain the procedure to the patient, prep the patient by disinfecting the skin around the insertion site, administer medications and monitor the patient's vital signs. All of these tasks must be documented thoroughly, making good documentation skills essential for anyone who wants to work in the cath lab.

Technical skills

A cardiac catheterization laboratory contains a variety of equipment necessary for conducting the procedure, monitoring each patient's vital signs and documenting the care provided to patients. If you plan to be a cath lab nurse, you must be comfortable working around the X-ray tube, image intensifier, image monitor and hemodynamic monitor. In some cases, a cath lab nurse is called upon to assist the interventionist, making technical skills even more important.

Administrative skills

Good clinical skills are a must for cath lab nursing, but a nurse can't truly succeed in this role without good administrative skills. These skills include identifying potential obstacles to completing the procedure successfully, ensuring that the patient's consent is obtained in a timely manner, securing the patient's records from previous catheterization procedures and demonstrating strong leadership qualities when working with other members of the cath lab team. Staying on top of these activities can help a cath lab nurse protect patients from life-threatening drug interactions, allergic reactions and other complications.

Working in the cath lab is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time as a nurse. If you're interested in travel nursing, it's also a great way to land your first short-term assignment, as many hospitals have trouble filling open cath lab positions. As a cath lab nurse, you must have excellent communication skills to put patients at ease and improve efficiency among members of the cath lab team. You must also have excellent administrative skills, strong leadership abilities and the ability to intervene quickly if an emergency occurs. If you have these skills, you're ready to start searching for travel nursing opportunities in cath labs throughout the United States.



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