Cath Lab Nursing: Interview with Traci Albaeck, RN

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Cath Lab Nursing: Interview with Traci Albaeck, RN

By Mariah Williams
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WORKING NURSE: What is Cath Lab nursing?

TRACI ALBAECK, RN: Cath Lab nursing involves both the diagnostic and intervention aspects of cardiac care, working alongside the cardiologist to ensure adequate care for heart patients.

Have you always been a Cath Lab nurse?
No, I had been a Critical Care Nurse for about 10 years before making the transition to the Cath Lab. The training was intense for two months. Then I was placed with a strong team for the next six months.

How was the adjustment period?

They say that it takes about two years to be fully oriented to Cath Lab. The whole time I kept asking myself, "What did I get myself into?" There is so much to learn in the initial two to four months, I felt like I was fresh out of nursing school all over again. Up until that point I was used to being on top of my game. I was the one training new nurses in the critical care areas. But, even though I felt overwhelmed, each day I was amazed by everything that we do in Good Samaritan's Cath Lab.

How did you first become part of the Good Samaritan team?

I came to Good Samaritan Hospital for their AMI Transport program. For five years I was a part of the Transport team. Good Samaritan Hospital is a tertiary facility, so cardiac patients are ambulanced or flown in from hospitals all over the western states. Although I miss transporting critical cardiovascular patients in ambulances, helicopters, and Lear jets, I was drawn to the procedures that went on in the Cath Lab.

What does your work involve on any given day?

A typical day in the Cath Lab starts at 6:30 am with stocking the lab, mixing drugs, setting up for cases and doing cases. These might include angiograms, coronary angioplasty, peripheral studies and interventions, carotid interventions, emergency cases, PFO, VSD and ASD closures, and other complex cases. During the case, I am responsible for monitoring the patient’s vitals and cardiac rhythm, documenting everything that is going on during the case, answering phones and pages, and keeping the rest of the cases for that lab on schedule. Other times I may circulate. In those, I’m not scrubbed in so I can run and get any supply that is needed, give meds, run blood tests, operate the equipment, drive the table, and monitor the patient. In some cases, I may scrub in and assist the MD with the procedure. Our Cath Lab does at least 12 cases a day.

Any downside to the job?

Some days we can do 20 or more cases. Depending on if you are on-call or the late team, your day could end at 5 pm or you could be working until 10 pm or later. When you are on-call, you have a high chance of getting called back in for emergency cases at any time of the night or early in the morning. So, this job is definitely not for those who need to have eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep!

What do you like best about the job?

There is never a dull moment. The Cardiology department at Good Samaritan has 20 plus active clinical trials. This means we are using groundbreaking techniques, drugs, procedures, products, and equipment that improve our patients’ outcomes. Our Cath Lab does many high-risk cases that other hospitals refer to LA Cardiology. I have such respect for the physicians whom I work with! I have never seen a group of doctors who do such high-risk cases with such a high percentage of success.

Another thing that I love about my job is the people I work with. In the Cath Lab, we can go days without seeing someone from another department. The nurses, techs, and docs have become like my second family—so much so that we spend time together during our off hours.

What would you say to any nurse considering Cath Lab?

The only advice I can give to a nurse looking to work in the Cath Lab is to stay with it through the initial shock and adjustment period. Once you feel comfortable with your knowledge base, you will love it!


Invasive Cardiology: Manual for Cath Lab Personnel, by Sandy Watson and Bernhard Meier
The Cath Lab: An Introduction, by David L. Ludell

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