Tell us about your medical background. How long have you worked in EP?
I have been a registered nurse for the past 16 years and have worked in a variety of clinical areas, such as the cardiac cath lab, ICU (medical, surgical, and cardiac), and clinical research. I worked in EP for about three years, and worked side by side with two electrophysiologists at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Burlingame, in a hectic outpatient cardiology clinic.
Where are you currently employed? Tell us more about your past experience in EP.
I currently work for a health company called Crossover Health, which provides health and wellness services for technology companies in the Bay Area. Although I haven’t actually worked in an EP lab, I got my EP experience working closely with those two electrophysiologists in an outpatient cardiology clinic. I learned a great deal about EP while working with those two doctors, especially when I was assigned to be the main nurse for Dr. Alan Schwartz, an EP doctor with over 30 years’ experience. Our patients’ daily lives were affected by arrhythmias, and they needed EP procedures, such as an ablation or device implantation, to reclaim their ability to lead normal lives. I assisted the doctors by educating patients on their arrhythmia, antiarrhythmic, or AV nodal blocking medications, as well as about their upcoming procedures. I also provided nursing advice to EP patients who called the office, and assessed in-office patients with urgent issues, such as those complaining of shortness of breath or chest pain due to atrial fibrillation. I learned a great deal about EP during that time, and am still fascinated by this field since it affects people of varying ages, culture, and gender.
Describe your previous experience also working as a travel nurse. Why did you give it up?
Travel nursing was a life-changing experience for me. I learned a great deal about what healthcare issues are prevalent in various areas of the U.S. For example, in Hawaii, many people had respiratory issues due to “vog”, which is air pollution caused by volcanoes, and cardiac problems due to a diet high in sodium. In California, I encountered transexual patients and those who suffered burns due to wildfires, which I did not see as a nurse in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. I also learned a lot about myself. When I started travel nursing, I learned how to be self reliant and how to “hit the ground running” — I had to meet friends in each new place, learn the work culture of each new hospital, and figure out the policies and procedure of each facility with only two days’ orientation. I loved each experience, but after working as a travel nurse for four years, I grew tired of the constant moving and wished for a permanent home base.
Tell us about why you created the “Grace the Nurse” accounts for Facebook (www.facebook.com/GraceTheNurse), Twitter (@GraceTheNurse), and YouTube (bit.ly/1QIHGp7). What is your purpose?
Originally, I created the “Grace the Nurse” accounts to gain Dr. Mehmet Oz’s attention. Back in September, after The View made disparaging remarks (bit.ly/1XgTW1L) about nurses, Dr. Oz wanted to honor nurses by looking for a nurse to join his panel of experts. Because I enjoy educating patients, I wanted to be the nurse for whom he was searching. I was not chosen, but I realized that my videos and social media accounts could still help people. I realized that many people who want to learn about their health turn to the internet for answers. Unfortunately, people are unsure what sites have trustworthy health information, and I found I was often asked where reliable health information could be found online. Therefore, I decided to continue with my videos and social media accounts, not only because I enjoyed making the videos, but also to provide the public with health information they could trust.
How often do you post videos to your YouTube channel? Do you have help creating the videos?
I try to post videos once every two to three weeks. For my first two videos, I hired the talented Robbie Griggs, who worked with me in the cardiology clinic. He filmed and edited fantastic videos for the clinic, and I recruited him to help make my Dr. Oz audition video and my first education video, “Size Matters”. He coached me to do both videos without a script, and gave me advice on how to produce my own videos. After those two videos, I conceptualized, filmed, and edited my other videos by myself. All videos are done without a script and were sometimes done in between seeing patients! For example, for my video on “How to Avoid the Flu: The Halloween Startrek Edition”, I placed my camera on my desk and grabbed two of my coworkers during a brief five-minute break between seeing patients. I find doing videos this way is more entertaining and spontaneous, and hopefully will hold people’s attention so they can learn something important about their health.
What topics do you most commonly cover on your social media pages?
The topics I like to cover are those that patients ask me about the most. For example, many patients I see are interested in how to eat healthier and how to lose weight, so I will post articles covering these topics using Facebook or Twitter. I am also a major mental health advocate, and at least once a week will Tweet or post an article relating to mental health. Because technology is the future of healthcare, I recently began focusing on wearable technology and how they can help people monitor their EKG, heart rate, and exercise status.
What issues do you think are most challenging for nurses? What about for patients?
The most challenging issue for nurses is lack of assistance at work. For example, I injured my neck a few years ago, because a hospital eliminated the Lift Team to save money. The Lift Team is comprised of strong people who assist nurses with turning and lifting patients who have no or limited mobility. Once the Lift Team was eliminated, nurse injuries unfortunately increased. For patients, I believe the most challenging issue is insurance companies. In the past few years, I’ve noticed insurance companies have significantly decreased the number of drugs or procedures they cover. I understand that insurance companies need to watch costs, but patients suffer. I’ve spoken to many patients who could not receive the medications or procedures they needed because their insurance would not provide approval. Sadly, many of the patients who most needed those medications or procedures were those who could not afford good health insurance.
What questions do you get asked most often by visitors to your site? Why do you think this is?
Mostly I will get questions from people who would like to know more about the information I’ve provided. I also receive comments from followers who share their own experience on a topic I have Tweeted or posted. For example, I once posted how sushi is a healthy snack option, and one of my followers, who is diabetic, posted on Facebook that although sushi is healthy, diabetics should beware of how much sushi they eat due to the high carb content of the sushi rice. I believe they ask more questions about the topics I cover because they are curious, and for those who add in their own experience, I think they want to ensure that topics I cover also include any nuances. I’ve enjoyed interacting with everyone so far and encourage them to continue to do so!
What’s next for you?
I want to continue with my Grace the Nurse video series and social media accounts. I am currently working on creating a website through WordPress (www.gracethenurse.com), where I will post health blogs and links to my YouTube videos and will allow people to post questions or comments. I am also toying with the idea of hosting a health-centric show on public access television.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EP is an amazing field, and I am excited to see how it advances in the future. Also, to the millions of nurses who help care for the public: thank you for your dedication, service, and knowledge! Everything I have learned about EP was not only from doctors, but from the amazing veteran nurses!