UK HealthCare's certified cardiac nurses deliver optimal patient outcomes

UK HealthCare's certified cardiac nurses deliver optimal patient outcomes

When Amy Teague decided to pursue advanced nursing certification, she took a two-for-one approach. To better serve her patients in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, where she has worked for nearly 15 years, Teague earned not only her critical care registered nurse (CCRN) certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, but also her cardiac surgery certification (CSC).

The CSC is a subspecialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely and critically ill adult cardiac patients in the first 48 hours after surgery.

“I felt that if this is my specialty and what I love to do, I should take the certification that goes along with my practice,” Teague said. “It benefits not only my patients but my colleagues too, because I can teach them what I’ve learned.”

Teague is among nine nurses in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) who have earned their CSC.

“There are only about 3,000 CSC nurses in the United States,” said Sherry Griggs, assistant patient care manager. “In the entire state of Kentucky, there are only 31. For UK HealthCare to have nine is very impressive.”

UK HealthCare encourages its nursing staff to pursue advanced certifications both for career advancement and because data show that certified nurses deliver optimal outcomes for patients.

“As a Magnet hospital, UK HealthCare places great value and emphasis on nurses obtaining advanced certifications,” Griggs said. “Certification is a mark of excellence that’s more important now than ever. It demonstrates to our peers, our employees, our patients and the public that a nurse’s knowledge reflects the highest national standards and a deep commitment to patient safety.”

In order to sit for the CSC exam, nurses must have a registered nurse or advanced practice registered nurse credential and then earn their CCRN. That requires providing 1,750 hours of direct care for acutely and critically ill adult patients within the two years prior to applying for the CCRN. The CSC stipulates that 875 of those hours must be spent caring for adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours after surgery.

“Those first 48 hours are critical,” Griggs explains. “You are managing multiple drip lines, working to extubate a ventilated patient and staying vigilant to monitor even small changes in hemodynamics. You need to make a lot of quick assessments about the patient’s condition and discern where there might be complications.”

Along with their colleagues in the 42-bed CVICU, CSC nurses often care for patients receiving heart transplants, left-ventricular assist devices, coronary artery bypass grafts and valve replacements. They also care for patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, an advanced form of life support for the heart and lungs that has been especially essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the CVICU, we take care of the absolute sickest patients that you will find in the hospital,” Teague said. “We are required to have competency on more devices and therapies than any other unit in the hospital, so the time and educational commitment to be a CVICU nurse is tremendous.”

Because of their advanced training, CSC nurses are frequently sought to serve as preceptors and provide education for other nurses on the CVICU team.

Teague teaches postoperative cardiac surgery classes to new nursing graduates and new members of the CVICU team who don’t have prior cardiac surgery experience.

“There are significantly more continuing-education credits required to maintain both the CCRN and the CSC, so continual learning is a good way to stay on top of the most advanced evidence-based practices,” Teague said. “It helps me be aware of new developments that I can bring to our unit to pass on to others and so that our patients can continue to receive the best care.”

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This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.