Career Story: Nurse Practitioner In A Cardiac Unit

Nurse Practitioner In A Cardiac Unit

Job Title: Nurse Practitioner

Type of Company: A large urban hospital.

Education: BSN, Niagara University •• MS, Boston College •• Nurse Practitioner Certificate, University of Massachusetts

Previous Experience: I was a staff nurse for seven years, a nursing supervisor for three and I've been an advanced practice nurse for the past 15 years.

Job Tasks: I take care of people who have end-stage heart failure. Most of them are waiting for a heart transplant. Since the waiting time can range from months to more than a year, we often implant a heart pump -- a left ventricular assist device or "LVAD" -- to supplement the work of the enfeebled tissue. There are short-term pumps, used for weeks to months, and long-term pumps which will work a few years. Some are internal, others are external, and the device we choose for any given patient depends on several factors. My role is to brief the patients and their families on the surgery involved and the difficulties afterwards of living on a heart pump. Most people are able to go home on the LVAD. I meet them before the surgery, see them while they are in the hospital and continue to care for them after they go home. It is challenging and very rewarding work.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I get to know the people and their families very well. We develop a close working relationship while they are going through the process.

The worst part of the job is some of my patients have serious complications, like a stroke and some don't survive.

Job Tips: I would recommend working for a few years before going back to school for an advanced degree. The clinical experience gives you a foundation to draw from.

Additional Thoughts: The great part of nursing is that it gives you so many opportunities to work in different environments, with a wide variety of work schedules, and many different areas in which to broaden and shape your experience. You can have jobs with lots of patient contact or work in an area that is more procedure-based, like the operating room.

The most important personal qualities for success are an ability to work well under pressure, to deal with many different types of people and develop long-term relationships with them.

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