In order to have a successful career in the healthcare field, one must be passionate about caring for others. I have worked in the healthcare industry for the past 10 years. I have spent the last 10 years of my career in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation as a clinical exercise physiologist. I am also currently enrolled in The Ohio State University’s graduate entry Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse practitioner program. I have always been interested in nursing and my experience in cardiopulmonary rehab has ignited a desire to advance my expertise and become a nurse practitioner. I have recently chosen to change positions and am working as a patient care associate on an inpatient cardiovascular unit in order to better prepare for bedside nursing.
As one can imagine, working in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and on an acute care cardiac unit means that I am caring for patients at high risk of cardiovascular events. I hold certifications in both Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) from the American Heart Association. I feel that holding these certifications is essential for all staff working with high risk patients. In fact, I think that any individual working with patients with acute or chronic medical conditions should hold BLS certification. The initial and renewal courses that accompany BLS and ACLS certification prepare one to properly care for patients at risk for an acute cardiovascular event. Certifications are renewed every two years and I feel that this is especially important and keeps one up to date on any changes to event algorithms and refreshes the important information and the steps necessary to provide proper care. I have taken both BLS and ACLS courses numerous times and by doing so I feel very confident that I can provide proper care to a patient during an acute cardiovascular event.
I am fascinated by the cardiovascular system. Its complexity and physiology is what sparked my interest in cardiopulmonary care. There are so many abnormalities that can occur within the cardiovascular system including electrical, vascular, and mechanical disorders. I think that knowing that the electrical, vascular, and mechanical functions of the heart can affect one another is essential when caring for these patients. For example, a cardiac arrest may be caused by an electrical abnormality in and of itself. However, a thrombus may occlude a coronary artery and cause a myocardial infarction (MI). This lack of blood flow to an area of the myocardium can cause disarray within the electrical system and cause a cardiac arrest. Also, a low ejection fraction or pumping function places one at high risk of ventricular arrhythmias or electrical disturbances. Therefore, it’s important to know that vascular or mechanical disorders can lead to electrical problems. However, electrical problems may be present in the absence of vascular or mechanical abnormalities. This is obviously very complex for a lay person to understand, but the simplicity of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and BLS allows most anyone to be able to perform life saving measures to these individuals in instance of an acute cardiac event. In the cardiac nursing world, we use the saying “time is tissue” meaning that the quicker the perfusion to the heart is restored, the likelihood of permanent damage decreases dramatically. CPR provides that perfusion and anyone can learn to do it. As a healthcare provider, I can spread the word and encourage my friends, family, and colleagues to take a CPR or BLS course. In fact, the other day, my husband was out running on a local bike trail. He encountered another runner in distress and holding his chest. He immediately called 911 and assured the guy that he would stay with him until the ambulance came. Fortunately, the ambulance came quite quickly and the man’s situation did not progress. My husband later told me that he was proud to tell that man, “I know CPR and I’m going to stay with you until the paramedics have arrived”.
My advice to other students entering the healthcare field is to enroll in a BLS course. For those working with patients who are at any risk of a cardiovascular event, I encourage them to enroll in an ACLS course as well. Even if they will not be administering medications, knowing the ACLS algorithms and course of action has been extremely helpful in my career. Teachers, camp counselors, church layman, etc. are now being trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Automatic external defibrillators (AED) are now being installed in schools, malls, fitness facilities, conference halls, etc. Anyone can save a life. Simply knowing how to perform CPR and the basic function of an AED can save someone’s life. BLS classes are offered at low costs. However, I think that every employer should provide some level of BLS and AED training to all employees. Heart disease is the number one killer and there is a high likelihood that you are near another individual who is at risk of an acute cardiovascular event. If that individual suffered a cardiac arrest right now, could you save their life?