What Is A CVICU Nurse? [+ Salary and How To Become One]

If you’re interested in a nursing speciality that is fast paced, intense, and requires extreme attention to detail, becoming a CVICU Nurse may be just the position for you.

In fact, these types of nurses are often considered to have very advanced knowledge and be super detail oriented. 

This makes sense, given the high-stakes nature of the CVICU. Patients are typically dealing with extreme conditions, and CVICU nurses can make the difference between a patient surviving or not.

In this post, you’ll learn about the average CVICU Nurse salary and responsibilities and see if it might be a good career choice for you!

What Is A CVICU Nurse?

A CVICU (short for Cardiovascular intensive Care Unit) Nurse provides care to patients in critical condition who are suffering from cardiac, thoracic and vascular problems.

Also referred to as CTICU (Cardiovascular Thoracic ICU) Nurses, their patients often come from the:

  • Cath lab
  • Operating room after cardiovascular surgery
  • Other hospitals that don’t have the capacity to provide a sufficient level of care

Some patients are in critical condition and require more surgery.

Others are simply recovering before being discharged or transferred to a different unit. For example, congestive heart failure patients may not require surgery, but they do need constant monitoring.

CVICU Nurse Salary in 2022

Before pursuing any nursing specialty, it’s important to get an idea of how well you’ll be compensated for your work.

Despite not requiring an advanced degree, CVICU Nurse positions pay pretty well.

What Is The Average CVICU Nurse Salary?

The average annual salary for a CVICU Nurse in the United States is $94,052 according to Indeed.

As with any nursing position, your salary will depend on your level of experience, certifications, and location.

Average CVICU Nurse Salary By State

The state or city you work in can have a huge impact on how much money you make.

BLS does not keep a record of the compensation this particular type of nurse receives. Instead, we compiled the following salary data from Indeed in June of 2022.

The following map will give you an idea of how nursing salaries vary by state. To see a breakdown of average salaries by states, check out the table below.

Average Annual CVICU Nurse Salary by State Map
StateAverage Annual Salary
District of Columbia$108,927
New Hampshire$91,180
New Jersey$98,438
New Mexico$90,592
New York$100,665
North Carolina$91,957
North Dakota$90,904
Rhode Island$93,486
South Carolina$89,358
South Dakota$88,062
West Virginia$86,596

What States Pay CVICU Nurse The Most?

1. District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. pays CVICU nurses the highest salaries in the United States. 

The average annual salary in D.C. is $108,927.

2. California

California features the second-highest salaries in the nation, paying CVICU Nurses $101,914 per year.

3. Massachusetts

The third highest-paying state in the US for CVICU Nurses is Massachusetts. 

On average, they pay these types of nurses $101,099 per year.

4. New York

New York has the fourth-highest average salaries in the US, paying these nurses $100,665 per year.

5. Washington

Washington state pays CVICU Nurses the fifth-highest salaries in the United States.

The average annual salary there is $99,679 per year.

What States Pay CVICU Nurses The Least?

1. Mississippi

Mississippi is the lowest-paying state for CVICU Nurses with an average annual salary of $85,132.

2. Montana

The second lowest-paying state in the US for these types of nurses is Montana.

The average annual salary there is $86,333.

3. West Virginia

West Virginia is the third lowest-paying state for CVICU Nurses. 

The average annual salary there is $86,596.

4. Idaho

The state with the fourth lowest-paying CVICU Nurse salaries is Idaho, where they make $86,663 on average each year. 

5. Oklahoma

The fifth lowest-paying state for these types of nurses in the United States is Oklahoma. 

There the average annual salary is $87,255.

What Does A CVICU Nurse Do?

There’s no typical day in the CVICU. In fact, Tina Vinsant, host of the podcast Good Nurse Bad Nurse, has called it “organized chaos.”

They often provide care to patients that have recently undergone:

  • Open-heart surgery
  • Coronary bypass grafting
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Heart transplant surgery

Because of the severity of their patients’ conditions, these types of nurses typically only care for one or two patients over the duration of a single shift.

Some of their specific duties can include:

  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Utilizing technology to stabilize patients and help them recover
    • These technologies may include ventilators, pacemakers, chest tube drains, and more
  • Documenting patients’ conditions and recovery progress
  • Communicating with patients’ families
  • Providing CPR to patients
  • Performing emergency medical interventions to save patients’ lives

While CVICU Nurses focus primarily on treating patients with cardiovascular conditions, these units sometimes serve as backup when the regular ICU becomes overwhelmed. 

Since these nurses have such advanced knowledge of the heart and how it affects all parts of the body, they typically have no problem providing care to patients suffering from conditions not directly associated with the heart.

Where Do CVICU Nurses Work?

As the name suggests, these nurses work in CVICU units. These units are typically only found in really big hospitals.

This is because it’s a very advanced specialization, and there is a high risk associated with heart surgeries and cardiovascular conditions.

How To Become A CVICU Nurse?

If you want to become a CVICU Nurse, you need to follow the steps below.

1. Obtain Your BSN

The first step toward becoming a CVICU Nurse is to become a regular Registered Nurse. To accomplish this, you’ll need to get your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

While you can technically become an RN with an Associate’s Degree, the advanced level of knowledge you’ll need to work in the CVICU means you should probably go with more advanced education.

Not only will the extra coursework benefit your knowledge, but many employers are requiring that their nurses hold at least a BSN. If you hope to work in any ICU in the next few years and you don’t have years of experience under your belt yet, your best off going straight for the BSN.

2. Pass the NCLEX

Before you can become a licensed RN, you’ll have to pass the NCLEX exam.

Once you pass, you can officially begin working as a Registered Nurse.

3. Gain Experience 

Once you become a licensed RN, you’re ready to begin working in a healthcare facility. Before you work in the extremely fast-paced and advanced CVICU, however, you should first gain experience in a Progressive Care Unit (PCU) or Telemetry Unit.

While it is possible to work in the CVICU right after becoming licensed, it would likely be too overwhelming for most new nurses.

Instead, start off with something more manageable. Once you have some experience under your belt, you’ll be more able to handle the pressures of the CVICU.

Is There A CVICU Nurse Certification?

While it’s not mandatory to get certified as CCRN to work as CVICU Nurse, it can certainly improve your chances of getting hired to work in one of those units.

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers certifications in a number of specialities, including:

  • Adult
  • Pediatric
  • Neonatal

Can You Be A Travel CVICU Nurse?

Given the advanced knowledge and fast-paced work environment in the CVICU, there is a demand for these nurses all over the country. This means you can absolutely become a travel CVICU Nurse!

Travel CVICU Nurses receive a higher salary, and they also get the opportunity to explore new places.

Best of all, they get to provide care to and help patients where they are needed most. There are a lot of travel nursing agencies out there so make sure you select the one that feels right for you.

Is CVICU Nursing Hard?

CVICU Nursing can certainly be difficult, but it can also be extremely rewarding. These types of nurses provide critical care to patients that many other nurses aren’t capable of providing.

By taking the appropriate courses, gaining knowledge and experience, and pushing yourself, you can rise to the challenge.


While CVICU Nursing is one of the more challenging nursing specialities, it can also be one of the most rewarding.

Everyday is different, and you’ll have the opportunity to make life-saving interventions for your patients. Just keep in mind that if you’re not ready for an intense, fast-paced work environment, this likely isn’t the right speciality for you.

However, if you like a challenge and want to make a huge impact on patients’ lives, this could be the perfect role for you.

Interested in becoming a CVICU Nurse where you’re urgently needed most? Then find a travel nursing placement today!

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