Cardiac Electrophysiology's Finest to RetireEP Lab Digest Honors Laura Cook, RN

Kelly Yardley, Lori Phillips, and Sana Al-Khatib, MD
Kelly Yardley, Lori Phillips, and Sana Al-Khatib, MD
Duke University Hospital s present Electrophysiology (EP) lab began as the Myocardial Infarction Research Unit in 1970. Dr. Robert Whalen, a well-known Duke cardiologist, recruited Laura Cook, RN, to assist with the research. Laura Cook spent the next 33 years of her career working with electrophysiologists on building the EP Program at Duke. The EP Labs used to be located in the original Duke Hospital now referred to as Duke South. The lab was so primitive. I think it had been a shower, the drain was still in the floor, Laura says with a smile. The team used fluoro equipment and a cardiac oscilloscope to do basic cardiac electrical recordings and evaluate patients for arrhythmia surgery. They also participated in clinical trials for Swan Ganz catheters, inserted temporary pacemakers, and performed the first successful reported His Bundle Ablation, a procedure that led the way for the now widely practiced radiofrequency ablation. During Laura s long career, she participated in extensive studies with Duke s former Director of Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Dr. John J. Gallagher, on Wolff-Parkinson-White, the first surgical ablations performed in the operating room, the first ICD implants outside the operating room, and the first radiofrequency ablations performed in the lab at Duke. Dr. Gallagher writes about that early time, I seriously doubt if even a fraction of the research we were able to churn out would have happened without Laura. Many of the pivotal studies were only possible with Laura s detailed log, which cross-referenced the tape, page of the readout, etc. Realize that she managed that while assuring we didn t kill the poor patient on the table. During her distinguished career as one of the first EP nurses, she has assisted in the training of a great number of fellows. Many have become leaders in the field of EP. One such leader is Dr. Eric Prystowsky, who comments, I still remember John [Gallagher] telling me on my first day his hierarchy of people in the laboratory John, Laura Cook, Ed Pritchett, and then me. He knew how important you [referring to Laura] were to the team and how transient all of us were. For 33 years, faces have come and gone but one always remained constant Laura s face. Laura built the EP program from a small shower room to a technically advanced state of the art program. She participated in the redesign of the labs five times in Duke Hospital. Her work was not confined to Duke, however; she contributed to a patient education booklet distributed by Bard entitled You and Your Electrophysiology Study: What s It All About? She has also generously assisted other hospitals in establishing their EP programs. Not only did she instruct their visiting nurses at Duke, but she also conducted seminars at other locations. Most of the departing fellows have enlisted her assistance in procurement of equipment and supplies for their labs. In 1998 she was awarded the Duke Excellence in Nursing Award from the Duke Friends of Nursing for her accomplishments. However, above all, Laura was a superb and caring nurse. Dr. Gallagher describes her by saying Laura was first and last a nurse and a patient s advocate. She takes pride in the excellent care that she delivered to patients. She loved being a nurse and would not have traded that profession for anything else. She served as a role model to the other lab nurses and as a supervisor who was always caring and fair. As a tribute to her brilliance, the Laura Cook Excellence Award has been established. This award will be given to nurses who demonstrate professional excellence in the Electrophysiology Labs at Duke. Laura represented excellence, and so too will her name for years to come.