Ten-Minute Interview

The Ten-Minute Interview With...Christopher Jolly, M.DE, RT(R), RCIS

Instructor, Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, Central Piedmont Community College Co-Chair of the North Carolina Chapter of the SICP Charlotte, North Carolina
Instructor, Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, Central Piedmont Community College Co-Chair of the North Carolina Chapter of the SICP Charlotte, North Carolina
I began working in an interventional cardiology/radiology lab in California around 1990, shortly after receiving a degree in radiography. Starting in 1995, I next worked for six years in a high-volume interventional cardiac catheterization lab in Florida before spending about a year in an electrophysiology/diagnostic cath lab, also in Florida. In 2002, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and worked two years in a research-oriented interventional cardiac catheterization lab, and since 2004 I have been teaching invasive cardiovascular technology at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), also in Charlotte. I received my masters degree in distance education about a year ago through the University of Maryland. Why did you choose to work in the invasive cardiology field? It was really more of an accident than anything else. Or, more precisely, the result of an unusually busy work schedule. After working as a carpenter for 10-plus years, I finally realized I couldn’t do that work forever and chose to pursue becoming a physician assistant. To do so, I needed to have a degree and experience in a primary care field, so I pursued a degree in radiography to fulfill both requirements. On my very first clinical day, the radiology department was so busy there was no one to begin my orientation, so I was told to go observe in special procedures. I immediately knew that type of work was something I would enjoy! After graduating two years later, I was hired at the same hospital and within months they started an interventional cardiac catheterization program in conjunction with their existing special procedures. I have found myself working in this field ever since, putting the PA-C plans on hold for a while (now going on 20 years!). Can you describe your role? As in instructor in a college-based cardiovascular technology program, I’m no longer “in the lab” as compared to most in the field. My responsibilities (and hospital policies) exclude me from working within the lab and getting hands-on involvement in the procedures because I’m not an employee. However, I do travel to a variety of different labs and as the primary contact person for the clinical site preceptors, I still have a very central role in the clinical education of my students. As I make clinical rounds to the sites, I see the development of the students’ skills over the course of two years. I very much enjoy seeing the field through my students’ eyes as they tell me of their new experiences. Additionally, I see their nervousness, excitement and eagerness through conversations held before class or a quick email after a day in a clinical setting, and these contacts often result in me relaying stories about similar events from my past which end up contributing to their learning process. As the students advance through their training in the clinical sites, I see them become more and more self-sufficient and self-confident, and being in a research-oriented area, they soon begin telling me about the new products or devices in trial at their sites. Through all these interactions over the course of their clinical experiences, the final product — a graduate with often more than the required entry-level skills — is a great transformation to watch. What is the biggest challenge you see regarding your educational role? The feedback I’ve gotten from directors, physicians and students, as well as the trends I see in the hospitals I visit, demonstrate a real need to prepare students for the rapid growth that is expected to continue in the areas of peripheral vascular procedures and electrophysiology. The challenge for me as an instructor is to enhance my curriculum to meet these challenges and prepare the students to perform in these areas without detracting from the diagnostic and interventional cardiovascular knowledge base. We plan to adapt the current curriculum to fit market changes. As soon as CPCC’s Cardiovascular Program completes the process of obtaining accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs (CAAHEP, final approval/disapproval on this is expected any day now), we will begin the process of adding an additional course to the curriculum that covers both these specialties. Our educational program has been recognized by employers within the immediate area (as well as by regional employers) as producing highly capable graduates with regards to cardiac intervention, and I don’t want to lose any of that quality. The program will look at all options open to us, restructure some of the curriculum to better suit today’s needs, while keeping within the allotted number of credit hours allowed by the state. We hope to have this issue completed within a 1- to 2-year time frame. We are also addressing the need for more formal education to those already working in the field who desire to learn electrophysiology (and possibly vascular as well) and hope to produce a course that will serve this purpose, as well as perhaps assist those attending obtain their annual CEUs. What motivates you to continue working in education? Although there are times where I feel that working in a lab would be easier than what I do now, I have always enjoyed teaching others, whether in radiology as a second-year student teaching the first-year students or in cardiology, acting as a preceptor to new employees. I was never bothered by the additional responsibility or work it takes to train new personnel, and my current job offers me the opportunity to provide in-depth education to a diverse group of students in a formal setting. Seeing the students grow from pure novices, often with no medical experience, into capable and knowledgeable graduates performing complex procedures helps me get through the difficult periods, as does observing my former graduates grow to become very accomplished professionals in their own right, often teaching my current students. However, at the risk of it sounding too much like a cliché, the biggest satisfaction comes each May as I watch another group of students, full of excitement, reach their goal and graduate. Have you ever been involved in a particularly unusual case? Well, there was the time power was lost to the cath lab during an intervention and the department’s emergency lighting didn’t come on. The x-ray and monitoring equipment worked fine, but we had to complete the interventional procedure by flashlight! Everything worked out fine, but with the exception of the hemodynamic monitoring screen, it was total darkness until a flashlight could be located. When work gets stressful and you experience low moments (as we all do), what do you do to help keep your morale high? One of the BIG benefits to teaching in a college is that there always seems to be a vacation of some sorts not too far away! These breaks, some as short as a three-day weekend or as long as two months, give me a chance to decompress as pressures build, and I’m very thankful and lucky to have them. For the times between these vacations, I spend time with my two girls, ages 10 and 12. I know that soon enough they are not going to want to hang around with dad, but they have a way of lifting my spirits, grounding me to what’s really important and looking at life in a new light. (By the end of the summer though, I’m feeling like less of a dad and more of an indentured servant, and I’m ready to go back to work!) For everyday stress, my wife and I and the kids have been taking tae kwon do for a couple years. There is no better stress reliever than a vigorous workout that includes kicking, punching and yelling (as well as improving focus, balance and control), and if all goes as planned, we’ll be achieving our black belts in just a few more months. Are you involved with the SICP or any other cardiovascular societies? I’m the co-chair of the North Carolina Chapter of the SICP along with Jessica McCarver (a former student of mine). We have recently begun the work of re-establishing the chapter and although we expect it to be a somewhat long and arduous process, in due time we hope to increase awareness of what the SICP can do for those in our profession and for the profession as a whole. I’m hoping to contact others in North Carolina that are willing to work with Jessica and myself to provide educational activities in several different cities around the state each year. In many areas, registered cardiovascular invasive specialist (RCIS) credentialing is required as a condition for employment and as a result, CEUs are needed by more and more people each year. I’ve already gotten some inquiries into joining the NC SICP and hope to see continued growth in membership and involvement over the coming months. If anyone in North Carolina would like to assist with these education conferences, contact me at chris.jolly@cpcc.edu. Are there websites or texts that you would recommend to other cardiovascular labs? I utilize several texts regularly in my classroom. Without a doubt, Wes Todd’s RCIS volumes are simply the best way to prepare for the RCIS exam and I utilize them for many assignments throughout the second year of the CVT program. Additionally, Barbara Aelhert’s (2006) ECG’s Made Easy provides a clear, succinct structure to learning arrhythmias and Gloria Darovic’s (2002) Hemodynamic Monitoring: Invasive and Non-Invasive Clinical Application is a very in-depth hemodynamic textbook. Darovic’s textbook may seem intimidating at first, but as the student reads the assigned chapters, they get a very thorough understanding of not just the major points in terms of hemodynamics as seen in the cath lab, but also with regards to total patient presentation. Watson and Gorski’s (2005) Invasive Cardiology: A Manual for Cath Lab Personnel is also used heavily and Holmes and Matthew’s (2003) Atlas of Interventional Cardiology is a text that I’ve newly adopted. Do you remember participating in your first invasive procedure? I don’t recall my first invasive procedure, but I do remember the first intervention where I scrubbed “alone.” When the LHC turned into a PTCA, the cath lab manager came to the door and said that she would find another person to scrub in with me, but the physician, Dr. Andre Landau, said that he felt absolutely comfortable with me scrubbed in and that he did not want me to leave. I felt a sudden surge in my confidence simply due to the physician’s stated comfort with me (although I’m sure he was also watching me VERY closely, as was everyone else). Since then I’ve tried to instill the same confidence every time I would precept someone in the cath lab or as I discuss clinical experiences with my students, as confidence is a very important aspect in learning and performing this job to the highest degree. If you could send a message back to yourself at the beginning of your cardiovascular career, what advice would you give? Simple: learn as much about cardiac function and how disease processes affect function as early as possible. This leads to a greater understanding of treatment and patient care techniques, resulting in a higher degree of knowledge, professionalism, and better patient care overall. Has anyone in particular been helpful to you in your growth as a cardiovascular professional? Dr. Marvin Kaplan, who gave me a start in my first cath lab in California, Dr. Andre Landau, who gave me the initial confidence to succeed, and all my current clinical sites and physicians who offer the same opportunities to my students. This, in turn, makes my job as an educator easier and more enjoyable! Where do you think the invasive cardiovascular field is headed in the future? There is already, and there will continue to be, a rise in peripheral and electrophysiology procedures for years to come, requiring more flexibility and continual education on behalf of the staff. Additionally, the role of the cardiovascular specialist is expanding beyond that of simply opening diseased arteries. Integration of more advanced procedures and devices that are currently being performed in surgical departments will be seen in cath labs over the coming years, increasing the job description and responsibilities of today’s cardiovascular specialist to areas unimagined when I began in this field. Chris Jolly can be contacted at chris.jolly@cpcc.edu