Heart Month Profile: Carolyn Gagnon, NP, Cardiovascular and Stroke Unit (2C)
by Marcello Bernardo
It’s Heart Month, and we’re highlighting staff and departments at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) who play a vital role in cardiovascular care. Today, we’re sharing some Q&A with Carolyn Gagnon, a Nurse Practitioner on the Cardiovascular and Stroke Unit (2C).
Describe your role for us.
I am a Nurse Practitioner (NP) within the Cardiovascular Sciences Program. I work with all the cardiologists on a day to day basis and see patients for consultations, admissions, transfers and discharges. The NP team follows the majority of cardiac patients throughout their hospital stay and provides ongoing care, education and collaboration with other services and team members. I see patients after major heart attacks when they are in the Intensive Care Unit and follow them throughout the stay until discharge. On the Cardiovascular and Stroke Unit (2C), I see all patients under the care of a cardiologist throughout their hospital journey.
What does it take to be a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
From an education stand point – after working as a Registered Nurse (RN) for three years I returned to school to become a NP, also known as a RN with extended class. I am currently in the process of obtaining my Master’s degree.
From a working stand point – it takes good time management, strong communication skills and the ability to establish working relationships with a variety of interdisciplinary team members within the hospital.
What is unique about your role?
NPs bring a nursing perspective into a medical model view. Both professions are trained differently and I think bringing those two models together allow for the best holistic approach for the patient and hopefully improve outcomes/satisfaction.
I am able to listen to staff concerns, provide education and promote a positive team environment, as well as working alongside physicians, where I am able to learn and ask questions. This allows me the ability to relay information back to the patients, families and staff throughout their hospital journey. All of this allows the patients and family to gain knowledge of their condition/disease, promotes self-management of chronic conditions and ensures a more positive hospital experience and hopefully an improved overall outcome.
What inspired you to work on 2C and in cardiac care?
Cardiology is so fascinating! It affects everyone. I started my nursing career on 2C and worked there until I went back to school. I worked as a primary care provider for five years before returning to the Cardiovascular Sciences Program as a NP and truly feel at home here. I learn daily and am so excited to see the upcoming advancements that TBRHSC has in store for the Cardiovascular Sciences Program.
How does your role impact patient care?
I hope my role within the program impacts patients in a positive way. I enjoy being the consistent person that patients and families see throughout their hospital journey. TBRHSC is busy and chaotic and can be overwhelming at times. I take the time to sit and talk with patients and families about their diagnoses, care/treatment plan, discharges and follow-up and provide ongoing daily education throughout their stay. I think knowledge is key to compliance once discharged. I encourage questions and ensure all follow-up is known. Coming from primary care, I am aware of some barriers with communication from acute care to community and have tried to fill in the gaps. This will allow a more seamless transition of care back to their primary care provider and ease the stress on the patient upon discharge.
On the concept of practice what you preach, do you have any personal tips on how to stay heart healthy?
I try to decrease my stress and make time for myself out of my busy schedule. My goal is to take a minimum of 10,000 steps per day and have made an effort to increase my water intake throughout the day.
Any final thoughts?
I am privileged to have amazing colleagues and am honored to be nominated during Heart Month by the 2C staff. Thank you for always being so supportive of the NP role within this team.