All you need to know about Cardiothoracic Nursing.


Nursing, a dynamic ever changing profession that requires special set of cognitive/psychomotor skills. Man is composed of a body and a soul (Some schools of thought include the spirit as a part of man), two components that are as wide and as diverse as diversity can be. Medicine/Nursing are progressively evolving to becoming fields that try to take care of the numerous health needs of the dimensions of man, ranging from physical health to mental health and spiritual health, a holistic approach.

In nursing, a variety of specialities abound, and each of these speciality is unique in its own way, professionally designed to cater for the health needs of every area of mans health, and cardiothoracic nursing is one of these unique specialities that focuses on the care and management of the cardiovascular and related systems. A speciality highly specialised and focused, it can not be overlooked , it requires that the practitioner is armed with adequate professional qualification as stipulated by the countries policies. Cardiothoracic nurses are advanced practice nurses that bear on their shoulder the delicate responsibilities of making sure that client/patients who presents with challenges that have to do with the cardiovascular/thoracic aspects of the human body are given adequate medical and nursing care.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, it is responsible for one in four deaths, killing more people than cancer. As specialized as cardiology is, it is also important to take into cognisance that it also has specialised branches, like sub-specialities (Cardiac electrophysiology, echocardiography, interventional cardiology and nuclear cardiology or invasive, non-invasive and interventional cardiology). If you are curious about what it is like to be a cardiothoracic nurse, then read on, you will find enough basic information to make you make an informed decision on the speciality to choose if you are a registered nurse seeking to specialise.

Cardiothoracic nurses work alongside cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and other health professionals whose professional responsibilities can be said to fall under cardiovascular care/management, e.g respiratory therapists, occupational therapists e.t.c. They work in critical care settings, cardiac units and other units that are related to the care of the cardiovascular system, which include; the renal department, intensive care units, operating room recovery sections and acute care settings. Cardiothoracic nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have specialised in the care of the cardiovascular system and other related systems. They function alongside a prescribed plan drawn by a cardiologist, monitoring patient progress, administering medications and therapies, and intervening when necessary.

The daily tasks of a cardiothoracic nurse varies based on the work environment. Cardiac nurses working in the operating rooms, might spend more time in the recovery room, taking care of patients as they recover from the effects of anaesthesia and are stable enough to be moved to the wards. Cadiothoracic nurses can also be seen in the intensive care units (Critical care) or cardiothoracic intensive care unit, which is a specialised form of an intensive care unit that focuses on the intensive management and care of patients with cardiovascular problems who are managed postoperatively or emergency situations that need intensive interventions (round the clock monitoring and assessment).

What skills do you need to become a cardiothoracic nurse in Nigeria?

A foreign analyses, analysed over 30,000 cardiac nursing job postings to identify the top skills employers look for in a qualified candidate. As with nearly any nursing job, direct patient-care skills are highly desireable, and this analyses also correlates with the working skill requirements in Nigeria. Another top skill employers seek is telemetry, a skill set for monitoring patients vital signs in acute care with an electrocardiogram or similar device. Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) is the third most wanted skill for cardiothoracic nurses. The cardioithoracic nurse is also required to have enough knowledge in the area of rescucitation – able to initiate life saving responses in the absense of a physician, i.e able to manage emergencies in what ever settings they find themselves, hence the need for ample knowledge and expertise on basic and advanced cardiac life support.

Additional skills employers seek in cardiothoracic nurses include:
Case management
Interventional radiology
Catheterization laboratory (cath lab)
Treatment planning
These skills can be augmented with additional soft skills, which cut across communication skills, planning skills, team work and collaboration abilities. These skills can be summarised thus:
Critical thinking
Computer skills
Problem solving skills
Physical ability

The career path to becoming a cardiothoracic nurse in Nigeria.

To specialise in cardiothoracic nursing, you must first become a registered nurse, which requires you are licenced as a General Nurse after obtaining your Degree or a Diploma obtained after a three year training period in a recognised training institution (a system that is gradually fading away, because of its lack of relevance in the academic climes). After you have obtained your basic nursing training, it is also necessary you have hands-on working experience preferably in an acute care setting for more than a year, before you are eligible to qualify to be admitted into the cardiothoracic training school, which awards a diploma after a year of intensive training. Currently in Nigeria, only one training institution trains cardiothoracic nurses, but we hope to see more institutions around the country take up this responsibility of providing the training needed for cardiothoracic nursing.

Career advancement opportunity for cardiac nurses.

One promising height for cardiothoracic nursing, especially in advanced countries, is the cardiothoracic nurse practitioners, who are advanced practice nurses who assess patients, educate patients and families about chronic cardiovascular diseases and their treatment plans and analyse lab work or radiology results to create a plan of care, as a cardiothoracic nurse practitioner, you could work in a private practice cardiology clinic, seeing your own patients. If the clinical area is not your desire, you can decide to advance to become a nurse manager, who focuses on the training and direction of a team of cardiovascular nurses.

The prospects of this speciality are enormous, and any one who wishes to pursue a career in cardiothoracic nursing is not only doing him/herself good, but is also filling a vital position that contributes a whole lot to the health of their community. Saving lives is the crux of the matter, it does not matter what path you take, provided the universal goal is achieved. With this brief discuss, you should have gotten a glimpse into the multidimensional world of cardiothoracic nursing, fuelling your insight on the next path to take if you are a registered nurse seeking for a speciality to advance your career.

Ayinla Daniel R.N (RctN in view).

(Chief Editor Care City Blog).

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