International Nurses Day: My role as a Cardiac nurse

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Michelle Artigas

My name is Michelle Artigas, an Associate Nurse Unit Manager in the Coronary Care Unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), one of the largest hospitals in Victoria. I have worked at RMH for 20 years, of which 19 have been specialising in Cardiac nursing.

It has been almost three years since I joined the Heart Foundation’s Nurse Ambassador Program.  The program, which receives funding from the Victorian Cardiac Clinical Network, has enabled me to not only improve the health and recovery of my patients following a heart attack but has also allowed me to meet and work with a fantastic group of cardiac nurses from across Victoria.

Cardiac nurses play a critical role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. As a Cardiac nurse, I support and treat patients who have or experience various conditions of the cardiovascular system, such as heart attack, angina, and heart failure.  

At the Royal Melbourne Hospital, patient experience is one of our top priorities and we are committed to partnering and empowering our patients to improve their experience and health outcomes.  I have been fortunate to work in an area that l love.  I am very passionate and dedicated to ensuring our patients and their families are looked after while recovering from their cardiac event. It can sometimes be extraordinarily stressful, but also very rewarding

As a nurse, you’re often present in experiencing your patients most personal and intimate moments. While this can be confronting and challenging, making a positive difference to a patient at a time when they’re most vulnerable, is not only meaningful, but hugely rewarding.

During my nursing career l have had many different roles but one of my greatest achievements has been to be a part of the Heart Foundation’s Nurse Ambassador Program.

My main objective as a Nurse Ambassador, was to improve the information that cardiac patients received during their stay in hospital following a heart attack. Knowing that I could play a role in providing patients with the knowledge, skills and confidence to better manage their condition, aid their recovery and improve their quality of life, made this an exciting and challenging task.   

To achieve this, I developed a system across the ward to ensure information, tools and resources were delivered to patients to support their recovery and to encourage their referral to cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack.  Together with the nursing staff, medical staff and other health professionals in Cardiology, we have ensured that the delivery of education is an integral part of care for all patients.

One of the biggest achievements I have proudly contributed to during the Nurse Ambassador Program, has been the development of a DVD called ‘6 steps to cardiac recovery’. This resource highlights the key things heart attack patients need to know before leaving hospital to support them in preventing further heart problems as they return to an active life.

I believe my Nurse Ambassador role has personally allowed me to develop leadership skills that have seen me engage and inspire other nurses to improve the education patients receive while they’re in hospital. Providing patients with the confidence and knowledge they need to get back on their feet following a heart event and return to a fulfilling life – both emotionally and physically – is an achievement I get to celebrate with my patients and a reminder of why I love this role.