North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton has expanded its services to include cardiac care for patients in the surrounding communities. With the opening of the hospital’s new, state-of-the-art catheterization lab, patients are now offered advanced medical technologies along with care from experienced medical staff.
"I feel very fortunate to be here, because it’s a really forward-thinking hospital," said Karen Anderson, RN, and cardiovascular patient and community education specialist at the hospital. "There are a lot of constraints on health care right now, but this is really exciting for me because they opened this cath lab in July with top-of-the-line equipment and recruited a great team to work in it. The administration saw the need to have a heart center in this area of town so people didn’t have to come to a community hospital and then get shipped into Denver."
Anderson said she was impressed not only with the fact that the administration of the hospital was able to recognize the growing community around the hospital and respond, but also wanted to make sure the community was educated about cardiovascular disease.
"Once you have a cath lab you have to have not just the cath lab, but you have to have a whole heart program," she said. "This is where I come in. I have 25 years in cardiac care and cardiac rehab. So, I was hired to come in and do the community and patient education.
"That’s another thing that was so great about this administration – they didn’t just build the cath lab and think now people will come to it. They sent me out into the community to get the word out," she said. "The community and patient teaching is part of the whole continuum of getting a good diagnosis and patients knowing they can come here and have good care. So far, with our follow-up phone calls, 99 percent of the people have been very pleased with their care and would recommend us to others."
As part of the services to the community, North Suburban has been offering free seminars twice a month to anyone who would like to attend. The one-hour seminars taught at the hospital cover the topics of the latest evaluation and diagnostic methods, non-surgical treatments and new medicines.
"The biggest part of the program is the hands-on approach," said Pam Miller, director of cardiovascular services. "We have a very knowledgeable staff and that adds a real value to the program. Historically, patients were here in the ED and then went downtown, now they can stay here – it’s a great service for the community."
Patient education, according to Anderson, can help save lives.
"The thing about heart disease is that it is hard to diagnose by symptoms because symptoms are different for different people," Anderson said. "Symptoms also can be very vague and the patient can have a hard time understanding how serious things are. It’s really important to let them know the seriousness of this disease – I had a man who wanted to leave the hospital because he didn’t think he really needed bypass surgery, and that happens all the time because patients don’t really feel that ill. Heart disease is different and it needs a different approach."
According to Anderson, patients have a lot less time in the hospital today to mentally digest all that has happened than they used to because procedures for acute events take place so quickly.
"The support after an acute event is extremely important, because they do not understand what just happened," Anderson said. "People kind of have this idea that they’ve been fixed, not that it’s a disease they have that they have to stay on top of. If you don’t get them to understand that at the beginning, they might be back – education is very important."
The services included at North Suburban include emergency cardiac services, providing ED patients with rapid diagnosis and treatment. The hospital has an outpatient unit that allows cardiovascular patients easy admission, procedure prep and specialized recovery services.
The ICU provides beds, nursing staff and state-of-the-art monitoring for heart patients, and the hospital’s telemetry unit allows patients to move freely during heart monitoring. The nuclear medicine area uses various imaging techniques in conducting stress tests, and the cardiac rehabilitation offers recovering patients educational information. The rehab also offers diet counseling and monitored exercise sessions.
When it’s all said and done, there is an estimated 46 years of total experience working in the Cardiac Services department, according to Anderson. The team includes certified nurses and technicians who are specially trained in cardiovascular procedures and education.
The cardiac catheterization team is available 24 hours a day and can assemble within 30 minutes of any cardiac emergency.
"We’re just so excited about this new program," Miller said. "If we’ve saved one life, we’ve done our job."