Planning our first open heart procedure fed my needs as a critical care nurse

By Pam Blaney, MSN, RN, CCRN Director of Nursing, Methodist Charlton Medical Center

November 1, 2011, was finally here. The day we had all been planning for. The day of our first open heart procedure at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. This was truly one of the highlights of my career as a critical care nurse.

Planning for the big day began more than 12 months earlier. As a member of the planning team, I had a key role in reviewing the needs of cardiovascular surgery patients in terms of drugs and equipment. I hired an experienced team of caregivers that included cardiovascular nurses and a cardiovascular educator. Our team knew that education and training were critical to the success of our open heart program, so we conducted many trial runs with staff pretending to experience various cardiac events. We trained extensively, at both Methodist Charlton and at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Our goal was to launch a top-quality, smoothly run cardiac surgery program, and I’m happy to say that’s what we have achieved.

Our new cardiac surgery program offers three things that really appeal to me as a critical care nurse. First, it requires attention to detail. Second, it is challenging. And third, it provides an opportunity to get completely involved with the patient and his or her family, from admission to the cardiac critical care unit to discharge from the hospital through recovery.

I love working at Methodist Charlton because I feel like we are a family taking care of our extended family in Duncanville, DeSoto, and the surrounding area. I knew that our first open heart surgery patient was a local pastor. That day I was at my usual coffee shop, and an employee who knew where I worked said her dad was going to have open heart surgery at Methodist Charlton, and that he was going to be our first patient. I realized the pastor was her dad. Following the months of work leading up to the procedure, it was a surprising coincidence that I had this connection to the patient. It made the experience even more important to me.

Bringing this new service to our area is important because we have a significant portion of the population that needs cardiovascular surgery. In fact, in just the first two months of the program, we’ve nearly doubled what we expected to do in the first year. These patients require one-to-one care that’s very demanding on the caregivers. Clinically, it’s a challenge and that’s what critical care nurses love.

Nurses want to work for a health care system that prides itself on providing exceptional care. At Methodist Charlton, we’re raising the bar on our clinical standards. We’re a vibrant and growing hospital, offering our nurses a lot of opportunity for career growth. We’re constantly looking for clinicians who show an interest in learning and growing. It’s these individuals that we’ll want to take ownership of this program and lead it into the future.

February is heart month. Maybe it’s time to do something good for your heart and join us. Visit

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