Meet Cardiac Nurse Diana-Lyn Baptiste

Meet Cardiac Nurse Diana-Lyn Baptiste

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.

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.

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.

Celebrate, and Protect, Your Heart Health

Celebrate, and Protect, Your Heart Health

Long known as a month filled with valentines and heart-themed decorations, it’s no wonder that February was chosen as the month to highlight heart health.

The February 2021 celebration marks the 57th annual American Heart Month, and spotlights women’s heart health with a “Heart to Heart: Why Losing One Woman Is Too Many” campaign. In a time when one in three women are diagnosed with heart disease annually, this important month is a time when nurses can check their own heart health and strive to be a resource and help provide patients with accurate and timely information about heart disease.

The American Heart Association stresses the immediate need for information about heart health because of COVID-19’s direct impacts on the cardiovascular system.

As always, people can take lots of steps to keep their hearts healthy and can, in fact, prevent or mitigate a great number of serious heart disease cases. A healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in heart health and even moderate steps can have significant impact. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to have a strong heart, and it’s important to talk about small lifestyle changes with patients so they feel like they can make a difference in their own health.

What works? According to the American Heart Association, adopting a healthy lifestyle includes

  • not smoking,
  • maintaining a healthy weight,
  • controlling blood sugar and cholesterol,
  • treating high blood pressure,
  • getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, and
  • getting regular checkups.

And other habits can be just as important for keeping your heart in top shape. Getting enough sleep, keeping socially active with friends and loved ones, and trying to reduce the impact of stress with stress reduction practices (whether that’s a hobby or talking to a professional), all play a part in keeping your heart strong. And everyone should know the symptoms of heart attack or stroke.

Beyond lifestyle changes, do some sleuthing and find out as much as you can about your family’s heart health history. As genetic components can predispose certain families to heart disease, knowing if anyone in your family has had or currently has high blood pressure, a history of heart attacks or strokes, heart valve problems, or heart failure, can help you determine if you’re at a higher risk. It’s especially important to know the ages of these diagnoses as a family history of early heart disease can help guide your own testing and monitoring decisions.

Cardiovascular nurses treat patients with heart disease and often act as a great resource for patients. As they walk patients through their diagnoses and treatment, they are also able to help connect patients and families with other resources including nutritionists, physical therapists, support groups, and other specialists.

The Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA), believes that prevention is essential in beating heart disease and so offers plenty of heart health resources for nurses. They have handouts for nurses to give to patients to help with everything from peripheral artery disease to diabetes to hypertension. PCNA also offers free resources for health care providers to help improve their practice with additional information around improving communication, a stroke prevention guide, or a cardiovascular risk provider tool.

Heart health impacts everyone and so keeping your patients informed can help them get to a healthy place. And paying attention to your own heart health can help you keep heart disease at bay.

Nurses Spread the Word About Heart Health

Nurses Spread the Word About Heart Health

February is designated as American Heart Month and lots of recognition days help bring attention to heart health. Nurses who specialize in cardiac care (and who might be celebrating Cardiovascular Professional Week this week) are in especially good roles to help people who are coping with heart disease, and they are also excellent educators to help prevent heart disease in the first place.

A recent survey by the Cleveland Clinic revealed the majority of Americans don’t know heart disease is the number one killer of women. While women might typically fear breast cancer or even the random violence that is so prominent on the nightly news, heart disease actually is the most lethal condition. The survey revealed 68 percent of respondents thought something other than heart disease was the leading cause of death. In fact, heart disease is prevalent for both men and women and actually kills one out of every four Americans.

The Cleveland Clinic study also highlighted a deep lack of understanding about heart disease, its causes, and how it can be prevented. The study showed that while “90 percent of heart disease is due to modifiable/controllable risk factors, only 8 percent of Americans know that.”

Millennials, who need to start practicing heart-healthy habits right now, are especially in the dark, according to the survey. Eighty percent couldn’t identify heart disease as a leading killer of women. The same number or respondents didn’t know people should begin cholesterol checks in their 20s.

Heart disease is often called the silent killer for the symptoms that are easy to dismiss, unrecognizable, or even not present until too much damage has been done. This is why nurses are such essential patient advocates. They can help educate patients, family, friends, and community members about how to prioritize their heart health.

The Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA) is an excellent resource for nurses who want to help patients stay heart healthy. Because so many other conditions contribute to heart disease including diabetes, depression, and inherited genetics, there are many people who might not think of heart disease as an issue. Lifestyle factors also play a significant role as the cause of heart disease and the prevention of it.

Some health conditions are things people have no control over, but what nurses can do is help them understand what steps and modifications will help reduce risk. Someone with diabetes, for example, needs to pay extra attention to managing that condition with proper medications but they can also manage that condition and help prevent heart troubles with extra efforts toward heart health.

One of the best ways to begin educating people is to make sure patients have accurate information about everything from diet to high blood pressure. With correct information they can begin making changes that will work. For instance, the Cleveland Clinic survey showed that many people don’t understand that a Mediterranean diet is the most helpful for heart health or that an aspirin a day will not prevent heart disease. And with the dangers of vaping becoming more defined, and more urgent, people need to know vaping isn’t a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes.

If heart health is especially close to your professional interests, you might want to take your expertise to a higher level with the Cardiac Vascular Nurse Certification. If you work with cardiac patients, this qualification is especially important, but it also helps in a more general practice role. With so many people at risk of heart disease, helping patients with prevention can save lives.