Department Spotlight: Cardiac Catheterization Lab
February 27, 2023
February is American Heart Month, but our incredible heart heroes are here to serve you all year long. So please join us in honoring the Cardiac Cath Lab team at Renown Health!
At the core of who we all are, we find the heart: one of the largest sources of life that gives us the blood and oxygen we need to live full and healthy lives. When the heart doesn’t function to the best of its ability, a delicate approach led by cardiac experts might be necessary. These individuals can not only save lives but also help facilitate a higher quality of life.
The team entrusted to protect that vital source of life includes the hard-working and talented individuals in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab (a.k.a. “Cardiac Cath Lab” or “Cath Lab”) at Renown Health. These team members are known for their expertise, precision and quick-thinking in emergencies. When it comes to the function of your heart, you are in the best hands with this team. Their passion for Renown’s mission of making a genuine difference in the health and well-being of the people they serve is a testament to what they do every day.
Whether the procedure is emergent or planned, the Cardiac Cath Lab wears many different hats. The team is a well-coordinated group of nurses, imaging professionals, electrophysiology technologists, interventional technologists and more who band together to provide a diverse array of services, including stent placements, pacemakers, balloon pumps, interventional angioplasties, TAVRs and of course, catheters.
“A day in the life in the Cath Lab can go various ways,” said Erica Drummer, RN at Renown Health. “Every day, you are either a part of the electrophysiology team, doing cardiac ablations and placing devises such as pacemakers; the structural heart team, which includes MitraClips for mitral regurgitation and TAVRs; or the heart catheterization team, which includes diagnostic angiograms, heart catheterizations, angioplasties and stents for clogged arteries.”
With the wide variety of cases the team sees daily, an average day in the Cath Lab consists of many moving parts.
“We handle cases from left and right heart catheterizations, where we can diagnose and fix the artery right then, to electrophysiology cases like heart ablations and pacemaker implants, all the way to emergency STEMI (heart attack) patients,” said Michael Blankenship, Electrophysiology Technologist at Renown Health.
“We do so many things in the Cath Lab,” added Laurel Douglas, RN, Imaging Manager at Renown Health. “We ensure we have 24/7 coverage for emergencies, as we often have to act at a moment’s notice to care for emergent situations.”
Many of those emergency situations involve heart catheterization. If someone has a heart attack, the team immediately steps in to place stents to open the coronary arteries that are causing the attack. If a patient’s heart needs any assistance during an emergency, the team can place devices such as Impella (temporary ventricular support) or intra-aortic balloon pumps. Renown is a major advocate for advanced medical technology, and the Cardiac Cath Lab team embraces these technologies to perform life-saving procedures, all while working together as a cohesive unit.
“We work amongst each other to ensure sterility, safety and the best outcome for each patient,” said Zohra Benbrahim, RN at Renown Health. “We try to fit in as many cases as possible into the workday, and sometimes after hours, so patients can get the care they need.”
“Each team usually has 3-4 members, and each member has a critical job to carry out in order to implement excellent cardiac care,” added Erica Drummer, RN. “Many of our patients tell us that we all work well together, and I couldn’t agree more. We have become like a well-oiled machine or a NASCAR pit crew.”
Naturally, patients undergoing any heart procedure might feel frightened and anxious. Never fear – the compassionate Cardiac Cath Lab team is here to ease those fears throughout each patient’s entire visit. Their main solution? Communication.
“Being a patient in the Cath Lab can be daunting,” said Erica Drummer, RN. “When we have patients who may feel scared or have concerns, we try our best to connect with them, keep them informed and educate them on the procedure and the step-by-step process, including what they may feel before, during and after.”
“Overall, we try to keep spirits light,” said Zohra Benbrahim, RN. “Our team is excellent at explaining the procedure as it is happening. We also advocate for comfort throughout the procedure, which helps tremendously with anxiety, including giving patients warm blankets and music of their choice!”
Our experts in the cardiac Cath Lab make sure that no stone goes unturned when it comes to optimal heart function for every patient. Together, the team mends hearts and saves lives, day in, day out.
A Growth Mindset
Always learning, always improving, always reaching new heights – that's the Cardiac Cath Lab team. This team’s accomplishments speak for themselves on both a local and national scale.
“Over the years, we have achieved several milestones, including becoming a STEMI Receiving Center, gaining our Chest Pain Center Accreditation (which is achieved by Cath Labs who provide emergent percutaneous coronary intervention for heart attack patients 24/7) and having our accredited electrophysiology program,” said Laurel Douglas, RN. “We also offer services that other facilities do not offer. We have brought in several new procedures to the Cath Lab over the years. This is impactful, as the community members get to stay here for treatment.”
The Cath Lab team is anything but ordinary. There is never a dull moment in this department, and despite an ever-growing caseload, the team is always ready to rise to the challenge and continue pushing to surpass the average.
“I am so proud of my team for providing care for such sick patients,” said Zohra Benbrahim, RN. “We never really know how the day is going to go because emergencies happen, and things always change. Recently, we had a record high volume of cases, and my team powered through these busy weeks like champs.”
“We strive to get our STEMI door-to-balloon times at or below 60 minutes,” added Erica Drummer, RN. “Door-to-balloon time refers to the time from when a patient arrives in the ER to the time the Cath Lab has a catheter guide wire crossing the culprit lesion in the coronary artery that is causing the heart attack. The national average (and current guideline) is 90 minutes, so our 60-minute time is a notable accomplishment for us.”
The importance of staying on top of your heart health comes center stage during American Heart Month, which is a prime opportunity for our cardiology professionals to educate the community and help them grow their cardiac knowledge. The cardiac quality team participates in community events throughout the month (and beyond!) to raise awareness for cardiac health. The team also outreaches to other health systems and healthcare partners to highlight what Renown has to offer in the way of heart care.
Each Cath Lab team member always reminds patients about lifestyle choices and diet changes that can improve cardiovascular health, and they take this outreach with them all around Renown Regional Medical Center as well, walking through the hallways promoting many different ways of living a heart-healthy life.
The journey continues! The team will soon welcome a new Cardiac Cath Lab at Renown South Meadows Medical Center. The new lab will allow our experts in heart care to treat patients at our South Meadows location experiencing a heart attack and needing immediate intervention to open vessels in their hearts. The team is looking forward to embracing even more access to emergent cardiac care for our community at large.
Learn more about how Renown is building more ways to care for our community.
Now Hiring for Heart Heroes
Those looking to join a caring, committed and tight-knit group of cardiac care professionals will be in good company with the Cath Lab team. According to the members of this department, being a quick-thinking, dependable team member is key to predicting a successful Cath Lab professional.
“A good coworker communicates with everyone and is able to be flexible when things get hectic,” said Zohra Benbrahim, RN. “Our team stays so close with each other because of everyone’s ability to recognize where help is needed. Especially in the Cath Lab, it is important to be always aware of the patient’s vitals and clinical presentation so you can speak up if you notice changes. There are always new procedures or products coming out that become integrated into our practices, so it’s also good to welcome new policies and be adaptive.”
“We are a small team, and everyone sees each other as a friend,” added Laurel Douglas, RN. “We all know we will need help at some point, whether it be covering an on-call shift or helping during a procedure, so we all help each other. Teamwork and positive attitude are really what makes you a good team member.”
Not only are these individuals dedicated to impacting the lives of patients with the very organ that beats life into them, but they also are devoted to Renown – and it shows.
“I started working for Renown when I was 19 years old, and Renown was the medical system I went to for care; as I spent more time working here and becoming a part of the community, I could not see myself working anywhere else or getting care at any other hospital,” said Zohra Benbrahim, RN. “I truly believe Renown provides the best care and best serves the growing community of northern Nevada.”
The Cath Lab team members agree that Renown is a great place to both start and continue your career. Many of them have taken advantage of Renown’s training and educational opportunities, which in turn have helped them expand their knowledge to better serve the community.
“I chose to work at Renown because it gave me the place to grow in my career and experience different avenues within my career,” said Michael Blankenship. “I first started off as a student here, and I quickly realized that everybody I worked with genuinely cares for our patients. I started off in x-ray seeing patients and eventually did rotations up in the operating room, and I got hired full time in the Cath Lab. After a short time being here, I was crossed trained in the electrophysiology lab, where I furthered my knowledge in my career.”
This dynamic department is actively hiring, and many open positions are sign-on bonus eligible. The team cannot wait to welcome you to their, as Erica Drummer puts it, “well-oiled machine.”
“Being a Cath Lab nurse is very rewarding, especially when you’re able to be a part of a team that can save someone’s life,” Erica closes.