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Cardiovascular Nurse Navigator

Donna Taylor, RN

When a person suffers a heart attack, has heart surgery, or undergoes a procedure like stenting or angioplasty, cardiac rehabilitation plays an important role in reducing their odds of having a future cardiac event.
Donna Taylor, RN, Cardiovascular Nurse Navigator at Chester County Hospital, has the job of connecting cardiac patients to the rehabilitation and wellness services offered at the hospital. Her goal is to provide the patient the tools and resources necessary to prevent another cardiac event.

Taylor enters the picture once a patient has been treated and discharged. Within 72 hours after a patient leaves the hospital, Taylor will call them. It's a routine follow up call. She asks if they are having any issues, or have questions about medications. She then starts the patient on their follow-up care plan by scheduling their time in cardiac rehab.

For some patients this can be a scary time, wrought with unknowns. For that reason Taylor is always accessible. When a patient needs to speak to her, there is no secretary answering the call, no recorded voice asking if they know their party's extension. When a patient calls, Taylor's cell phone rings. "It's very satisfying to patients to be able to reach me so easily. Every patient has my number," she said.

Heart disease doesn't go away. It's a disease that lasts a lifetime, Taylor said. "Once you have heart disease, it is more important than ever to take care of yourself. We try to provide our patients guidance and support to stay healthy and prevent future cardiac events," she said.

This objective is easily measured by looking at the readmission rates. "We have decreased readmission rates for cardiac patients because of follow-up care," Taylor said.

That follow-up care is a multifaceted approach of education, counseling and physical activity. Counseling and education helps a patient understand their condition and how they can best manage it. Typical rehab involves 18 to 24 sessions at the hospital's Fern Hill campus. That would be about three times a week for physical therapy with education interspersed. "Studies show that people who do cardiac rehab live longer," Taylor said.

While Taylor said some patients can be apprehensive to start the physical activity portion of rehab after a cardiac event, the environment they are doing it in is very controlled and they are under constant supervision. "In cardiac rehab patients are monitored, so it's safe. There are also cardiologists on site," Taylor said.

"Heart disease isn't a disease of the elderly. We have people in their 30s, people who are runners. Cardiac rehab has all types of patients," Taylor said. "Some people are obese. Some are diabetic. Everyone is different. That is why our cardiac rehab is individualized to the patient."

Taylor has held the position of Cardiac Nurse Navigator for the past four years. However, her experience with cardiac patients is extensive. Prior to her current position she was the charge nurse in the cardiac catheterization lab, essentially running the lab on a daily basis for seven years. And while Taylor's work is now conducted mostly on the phone with patients, she still gets into the cath lab regularly. Working clinically in the cath lab allows her to keep her skills sharp and maintain certain certifications. It also keeps her close to the doctors and nurses who treat the very patients she is guiding through follow-up care.

While her own clinical experience has given her a wealth of knowledge she can share with her patients, the close relationship Taylor has with the nurses and doctors means she can get immediate answers for them. "If I don't know the answer, I can ask a doctor and take care of it quickly," she said.

"It's an easier transition to have been a cardiac nurse and step into this nurse navigator role," Taylor said. "I can easily contact the cardiac physicians. I know them, they know me."

"The catheterization lab team is great," Taylor said. The team has been together for a long time and they are very good at being proactive and making positive changes. Our cardiologists are nimble. They regularly incorporate new treatments."

Most people are very receptive to the follow-up care prescribed by the hospital. "Having a cardiac event makes people reevaluate their lives," Taylor said. "People are willing to change after having a heart attack. If patients do what they are supposed to, I won't hear from them again."

Last Updated: 2/11/2014