The Ten-Minute Interview with: Heather Vardon, RN

Heather Vardon, RN Supervisor, Interventional Cardiovascular Services Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Heather Vardon, RN Supervisor, Interventional Cardiovascular Services Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Professionally, I have been a registered nurse since 1995, and have worked in cardiology the entire time. I started in the Cardiac Cath, Electrophysiology (EP) and Specials Lab in 2001, and took on the role of supervisor in early 2005. Personally, I am the proud mom of Halle, 7, Kendal, 5 and Kaden, 2. They are my daily source of joy and love, and they help me focus on what is important in life. My fiancé acute;, Kevin, and I recently purchased a farm in rural Wisconsin, and we love the peace and tranquility of life on the farm. At present, we only have cats, horses and a dog, but we plan to expand our animal selection next summer with goats and beef cattle.

Why did you choose to work in the invasive cardiology field?
I have been working with cardiac patients since I became a nurse. It truly is my niche. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in multiple areas, including cardiac rehab, ED, CCU, ICU and, where I am currently, the Cath/EP/ Specials Lab. I love that things are always changing and never stagnant in this field. It keeps me challenged on a daily basis.

Can you describe your role in the lab?
I supervise the Cardiac Cath, EP and Interventional Radiology (IR) Labs at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, as well as the Radiology Nursing Department. Our hospital currently has one IR lab, and two cath/EP labs. We are very excited for 2008, because we are building a fourth lab which will house a bi-plane unit. This new lab will be used for EP and neuroradiology procedures.
I work with a great team of nurses and technologists, so I don’t get to spend much of my time in cases. However, when I am in a case, I’m either the monitor person or the circulating nurse. I have not learned to scrub just yet, but I plan to someday.

What is the biggest challenge you see regarding your role in the lab?
Helping maintain the life-work balance of our staff. I believe in family first, work second.

What motivates you to continue working in the cath lab?
It’s what I love to do.

Is there an unusual case you have been involved with?
I honestly have not had many bizarre cases in my career. If I had to pick one, it had to do with an acute myocardial infarction after taking Cialis and nitroglycerin, and there was a Foley catheter involved... enough said? When work gets stressful and you experience low moments (as we all do), what do you do to keep your morale high? Remember the good work that we do, and that as tough as some days are, we help save lives. That’s the bottom line.

Are you involved with the Society of Invasive Cardiovascular Professionals (SICP) or other societies?
Yes, I have been a member of the SICP since 2005. In 2006, I helped start the Wisconsin Chapter of the SICP and I am currently the Chapter Chair. I am an active member of our education committee. Are there websites or texts that you would recommend to other cath labs? There are many, but here are three websites worth checking out:
• EKG website: http://www.skillstat.com/6sECG_rdm.html (this is a fun one!);
• Hemodynamics website: www.pacep.org

Do you remember participating in your first invasive procedure?
I was scared and amazed the same time. I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh! We are actually inside this person’s heart!” If you could send a message back to yourself at the beginning of your cardiovascular lab career, what advice would you give? Don’t be so timid. Speak up when you have questions and get clarification when you need it. Where do you hope to be in your career when it is time to retire? I would like to be a cardiac nurse practitioner when I retire.

Has anyone in particular been helpful to you in your growth as a cardiovascular professional?
Yes, my mentors, Sue Yunker and Lori Erdman. They are both so knowledgeable. I want to be just like them: strong, brilliant and successful. Where do you think the invasive cardiology field is headed in the future? With the advancement of cardiac computed tomography (CT), and with the capabilities we have with cardiac mapping and CT, I envision cardiac CT making its way into the interventional world soon, especially for renally impaired patients.

Heather Vardon can be contacted at heather.vardon@aurora.org.