Cardiologists sponsor scholarship for local nurses

Thanks to a scholarship from cardiologists and other Florida Hospital physicians, six Florida Hospital nurses traveled to Boston for a three-day "Update in Clinical Cardiology" seminar sponsored by Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Richard Daum, a Florida Hospital cardiologist and Harvard graduate, wanted the nurses on his team to have access to the latest findings and innovations in cardiology services. He approached fellow cardiologist Dr. John Altieri about donating their own money in order to bring the nurses to Boston.

"I wanted to see all of cardiology be like cream rising to the top," said Daum.

The physicians raised $15,000 with the help of other donors, including Florida Hospital interventional cardiologists Dr. Roger Wittum and Dr. Phillip Jones as well as Dr. Vinod Thakkar, Dr. Ernesto Pinzon and Dr. Philip Wong.

At the event, Director of Nursing/Critical Care Services Tawny Muscatello as well as nurses Josephine Delos Reyes, Susan Rapacon, Maria Teresa Espiritu, Peggy Carr and Marikit Masigla rubbed shoulders with cardiologists from all over the world while learning cutting-edge advancements in heart care presented by experts in the field. It appeared they were the only nurses at this event, which is typically for doctors.

The new knowledge is allowing the nurses to more quickly assess and treat heart patients, for whom time may be of the essence. For example, a patient coming with shortness of breath could be suffering from heart failure or damage from smoking. The nurses have been trained in the use of a new pro-BNP blood test that can determine whether the patient is suffering from heart failure as opposed to another condition that causes similar symptoms.

The training also helps the nurses to better understand the physicians' assessments during rounding, essentially helping them to "think like a physician," said Muscatello.

"It's a wonderful thing that we're doing for the community," Muscatello went on. She explained that even in light of the complex, elderly population of Highlands County, the Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center has some of the lowest mortality rates in the chain of Adventist Hospitals.

Espiritus said that with the new knowledge, "it's like we're going into the battle fully equipped."

Daum stated that above all, the patients are benefitting. The information presented at the conference that is now being implemented are the sorts of practices that are typically only seen in larger tertiary centers.

Daum said he plans to offer the scholarship annually.

"Undoubtedly, patient care will benefit from applying current and state-of-the-art cardiology to the situation they are working on. We are indeed striving to become a Cardiac Center of Excellence," Altieri stated in an email.

Muscatello has arranged a pilot program where some of the attendees provide training to other Florida Hospital staff. Espiritu, Carr and Masigla now spend part of their time rounding with the physicians and part of their time training others.

According to Muscatello, anecdotal evidence suggests the project is working. The nurses' additional knowledge has allowed physicians to do their rounds more quickly, interpret test results faster and see more patients. Once the data from the project is analyzed, Muscatello said the hospital will decide whether to continue and even expand the program.