Longtime cardiovascular nurse Diana-Lyn Baptiste, DNP, RN, CNE, FPCNA, FAAN, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA) board member,  gave Minority Nurse some insight into a career in the broad field of cardiac nursing. As the nation marks American Heart Month in February, Baptiste shares some of what makes this career choice a good fit for her. Cardiac nurse Diana-Lyn Baptiste

What inspired you to have a career in cardiac nursing?
I was inspired to become a cardiovascular nurse in nursing school. I remember learning about heart failure in my pathophysiology course for the first time. I was fascinated by learning how the heart works, and the effect it has on our bodies when it isn’t working properly. I was surprised by how, when the heart fails, it creates a domino effect on our circulatory system, impacting other vital organs such as lungs and kidneys. It was then that I realized that I wanted to always care for patients who required care and treatment for heart problems. I wanted to become a part of the solution and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

What are the most important nursing skills for cardiac nurses to have?
One of the most important skills for a cardiac nurse is physical assessment. For some patients, their cardiovascular issues aren’t immediately identifiable by vital signs or diagnostic tests. Nurses must have very sharp assessment skills to detect when their patients are experiencing an issue. Physical assessments such as listening to the heart with a stethoscope, and assessing for changes in color of skin (paleness or bluish undertone) can tell us a lot about our patients. Also, asking the right questions about pain and symptoms can tell us a lot about what’s happening with our patients. Active listening is a great nursing skill that has proven to save lives. When nurses listen to their patients, they are more likely to detect that something is going wrong.

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As a cardiovascular nurse, I have always relied on my assessments, diagnostic labs, and exams, as well as my patient’s verbal accounts to develop a safe plan of care to support good health outcomes.

With so many advances in cardiovascular health, how do you stay current on new trends, nursing techniques, or evidence-based practices?
As a cardiovascular nurse, it is imperative that I stay abreast to the latest evidence-based literature and guidelines to support safe and efficient care, and education for patients. As a nurse and researcher, I follow the most up-to-date treatment national guidelines published by the American Colleges of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) and PCNA. These organizations are committed to providing the best practices, based on research to ensure good health outcomes for all.

I also attend ACC/AHA and PCNA conferences and continuing education programs to ensure that I’m learning the latest research-based guidelines. As a researcher, I conduct research and publish articles to contribute to the cardiovascular science. Finally, I also serve on writing committees for the above noted organizations, where I have the opportunity to contribute to the development of guidelines for nurses and other cardiovascular healthcare providers. All of these activities are a part of my commitment to lifelong learning and the enhancement of cardiovascular care of patients with cardiovascular diseases.

What do you most enjoy about your career as a cardiac nurse?
As a cardiac nurse, I have the privilege of meeting and working with wonderful patients and colleagues. While working in community outreach, I meet the most dynamic patients. I found that through the years, I enjoy speaking with individuals living with cardiovascular disease. There is so much to learn from them as they share their experiences and wisdom.

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What would you want other nurses to know about this career path?
Almost 50 percent of individuals in the United States are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. There is much opportunity for nurses to enter the cardiovascular field. Cardiac nurses are not limited to hospital inpatient units, they can work in outpatient clinics, operating rooms, cardiac cath labs or rehabilitation units, nuclear medicine procedure areas, and critical care units, among others.

I want nurses to know that among several nursing specialties, they can choose any area of their choice, whether that is oncology, obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics, or neurology. What I’d like nurses to remember is that every patient has a heart, and the heart serves as the center for all functions. With that being said, every nurse is a cardiac nurse. All nurses are trained to take care of the heart.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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