Allison Perry


College: Nursing

Gill Heart Institute Nurses' Skills Contribute to Patient Care

Published: Aug 19, 2014


LEXINGTON, Ky (Aug. 19, 2014) -- When registered nurse Katie Burns arrived at UK HealthCare's cardiothoracic and vascular intensive care unit (CTVICU) in 2012, her gut told her immediately that this was the right place for her.


A graduation requirement for all nurses is completion of a "synthesis," which is a combination of on-the-job training and a thesis project.


"All around me I saw the innovation, the teamwork, the sense of professionalism, and the fast pace. I knew right away that I wanted to work in an intensive care unit," Burns remembers.


So when UK HealthCare offered her a full-time position on the unit, she stayed on, becoming one of an elite team of nurses, with 33 CCRNs (critical care certified nurses), 9 CSC (cardiac surgery certified) nurses, four CMC (cardiac medicine certified) nurses, three Platinum Level Clinical Ladder Nurses, and one CCTN (transplant) certified nurse. 


Two years later, Burns has no plans to leave. "I'll go back to school eventually," she says. "But I love the challenge this job provides me. You can't be complacent in a critical care unit, and that makes me a better nurse."


CTVICU Assistant Manager Jessica Porter agrees with Burns. "It takes a special nurse to work in a CTVICU," she says. "We've had patients as young as 11 and up into their 90s. And no matter what else is wrong with them, if a patient has something wrong with their heart, they come to us. Hypothetically speaking, if they've had a car accident, broken their neck, are in traction, lacerated their spleen, but also had an aortic dissection, they come to our unit."

That requires CTVICU nurses to adapt to all types of nursing care. 


"The sense of teamwork among nurses throughout the hospital helps us considerably," Porter says. "We are always reaching out to nurses in other units who are experts in the non-cardiac care our patients need, and they are more than happy to share their expertise. So we learn how to manage a lumbar drain, for example, so that our hypothetical car accident patient gets all the care they need in one spot."


Many CTVICU patients come for long stays, or they leave and come back repeatedly. The nursing staff really gets to know these patients and their families, and vice-versa. They become like family.


Part of the reason Katie is staying is in the new hospital's Pavilion A. There, the noises you hear aren't the pings of a heart monitor, but the banging of hammers -- at least for now.  In December, the CTVICU will move from the first floor of Pavilion H in Chandler Hospital to new digs on the Pavilion A 8th floor, expanding the unit from 16 beds to 32 and providing a state-of-the-art environment for patients and staff alike.


The nursing staff is an integral part of the complicated process involved in moving millions of dollars worth of equipment and approximately 32 patients through one building and up eight floors. There are bi-weekly meetings to play through scenarios and identify opportunities and barriers to providing the best care.


"Because we are one of the few units that walks each of our patients daily, there are times when we're not near all our patients," Burns explains. "So we came up with the idea to embed someone from Central Monitoring Station right in our unit, and train them specifically on our equipment."


"That way, if there's an emergency with one patient while I'm off walking one of my other patients, the CMS nurse can just pick up the 'bat phone' and get that patient cared for immediately."


Dr. Hassan Reda, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK HealthCare, looks to his nursing team -- which he calls "indispensible"-- for guidance with a patient.


"The nurses are with the patient constantly. They provide care, they educate, they nurture," Reda says.  "They are the voice of the patient, and that makes them an integral part of the care team."


"Their input and involvement is critical to our success.”


Because the new CTVICU will double the number of available beds, it will also hugely increase the number of nurses required to run the unit.  Porter says they're currently training 44 new nurses to prepare for the opening, which will increase the nursing staff to 94.  Even though they usually train only about seven new nurses at a time, Porter says they'll be ready.


"We are good at adapting, and we are seriously committed to teamwork," Porter says.  "Sure, we're excited, we're even a little nervous, but we've always been able to adjust to the unique needs of our patients.  I don't see this as being any different."



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