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In cardiac catheterization labs registered nurses help diagnose heart disease. Their roles include assisting doctors in the preparation of patients for and in the performance of interventional procedures, including cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, valvulopasty, and implantation of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. Cardiac cath lab nurses must have an advanced understanding of cardiac anatomy so duties can be carried out quickly and correctly. The range of duties is substantial but some of the most important are listed below.
Cardiac cath lab nurses prepare patients for their procedure by taking measurements of blood pressure, body temperature, and oxygen saturation levels. Nurses also answer any questions a patient may have and attempt to ease any fears or concerns regarding the procedure. Consent forms for each procedure are often completed by a patient with help from a nurse.
Administering Intravenous Therapy
An intravenous line is installed before a procedure takes place. This may be done in the patient recovery area or in the laboratory itself. The purpose of the line is to administer medication or sedation, depending on the procedure.
Monitoring Vital Signs
During a procedure nurses monitor the patient’s vital signs and report any significant changes to the operating doctor. Vital signs include heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation level. Electrocardiogram waveforms are also carefully monitored, because changes in the waveform my indicate problems for which action must be taken to ensure patient safety; nurses are one of a number of members of cath lab staff who must carry out this duty.
During procedures nurses assist doctors throughout the proceedings. This may involve operating treatment equipment or interacting with the patient to explain what is happening or to help him or her remain calm so the doctor can carry out the necessary duties.
After a procedure has taken place, it is the job of the nurse to ensure that the patient makes a successful recovery. A close eye is kept on patients for indications of side effects such as excessive bleeding, vomiting, or infection. If there are any post-procedure problems action must be taken by the nurse, under the direction of the doctor.