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June talks about her role as a cardiac nurse for the BHF, and her professional development into genetic nursing.
28th October 2010
Please can you introduce yourself and give us some background on your role and your responsibilities at the British Heart Foundation?
My name is June Davison and I have been working at the BHF, as a cardiac nurse for just over 6 years. Part of my role is to provide information on cardiac conditions, tests and treatment, to the public and health professionals via our heart helpline and emails. Another key area of my work is writing and editing information for patients or checking the medical accuracy of our resources – booklets, DVD’s, podcasts and website pages. In particular, I project manage the Heart Information Series – our flagship series - 25 booklets for people with heart disease.
A large part of my job is dealing with the media. We are often asked to review new cardiac research or asked our opinion on new developments in cardiac care. We might be asked to provide a ‘BHF statement’ or ‘opinion’, which I help to formulate. I also regularly carry out journalist, radio and TV interviews about heart disease and new research. I get the opportunity to be a medical representative on certain BHF campaigns, for example the Atrial fibrillation campaign which we ran last November. My role is to provide the background medical information and ensure medical accuracy of a campaign and all associated materials.
What attracted you to your first nursing job on a vascular surgery ward?
I worked on a vascular surgical ward as a student and loved it. I enjoyed the acute busy side of nursing – looking after people immediately after their surgery. Unfortunately some people ended up staying in hospital for a while, for example, if had undergone an amputation and were learning to walk again on a prosthesis. Here there was the opportunity to help peoples’ recovery, and to discuss how to help keep their heart and circulation system healthy. So the job was a nice balance of acute nursing, rehabilitation and also health promotion.
From this post you progressed into cardiac nursing in HDU and completed a course in cardiothoracic nursing. How do you feel these experiences benefitted your career?
One of my previous jobs was working on a cardiac surgical ward. Here I looked after patients before and after their heart operations and worked regularly in the High Dependency Unit, where we received patients immediately after their operation. I undertook a course in cardiothoracic nursing which gave me the opportunity to work in other areas such as coronary care and intensive care.
I thoroughly enjoyed this time of my career. It was extremely busy but very rewarding and the team I worked with was fantastic. I always enjoyed the health promotion side of this job, and discussing with patients about their recovery and rehabilitation. This provided a spring board into other areas of work, from here I moved into cardiac rehabilitation, but I have also had the opportunity to work in occupational health and practice nursing.
What first attracted you to join the British Heart Foundation?
The cardiac nurse job at the BHF was a draw on many on many counts. The job description appeared to build on elements of previous work that I had enjoyed – responding to enquiries for the heart helpline, acting as a resource for cardiac knowledge, and providing written information for heart patients. The media work was new to me – working with the press and carrying out radio and TV interviews - but a new challenge appealed. Before my interview I had the opportunity to have a look around, everyone seemed welcoming and friendly and the working environment seemed nice. The BHF appeared to be an exciting and enjoyable organisation to work for, and had a good benefit package.
Along with cardiac nurse Judy O’Sullivan, you have also completed the MSc module in Genetic Nursing, how has this benefitted you in your current role?
I completed this qualification last year. The course covered the scientific concepts that underpin the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions. It taught us how to manage a consultation that you might have with someone in a genetic clinic, and the psychological support that is needed for families. The course also enabled me to understand the ethical, legal and social aspects of genetic health care. Last year the BHF set up a Genetic Information Service, offering information and support on inherited heart conditions. If a young person dies suddenly with apparently no explanation or cause of death, it can be due to an inherited heart condition. The service aims to support families by helping to get an expert assessment in a specialist clinic that deals with inherited heart conditions. This assessment could help to detect and treat an inherited heart condition in other family members, potentially saving lives.
My role is to take a person’s family history, assess whether they may be at risk of an inherited heart condition, and the need for referral to a specialist clinic. We also send out information and booklets which may be helpful to families. In the last year and a half we have helped a number of people to get an expert assessment in a cardiac genetic centre, but we are continually looking into ways to improve and help even more people. The knowledge and skills gained on the course have been invaluable in working on the genetic helpline and have enabled me to me to deliver a high quality service
In your opinion, do you think that public awareness of heart disease and lifestyle changes that can help prevent it is on the increase?
We are continually bombarded with health messages from newspapers, magazines and television. Donations to the British Heart Foundation have enabled us to develop services and resources that raise awareness of heart disease and the impact of unhealthy lifestyles. The good news is that premature death rates from heart disease have been steadily decreasing over the last 30 years. This is in part due to improved treatments and hopefully increased awareness of heart disease amongst the general public. However, the news is not all good – more people than ever are being diagnosed with the condition and a massive 2.5 million people in the UK now live with the disease. Worryingly the number of people developing either diabetes or obesity is dramatically increasing. Both of these factors increase the risk of developing heart disease, so it’s a concern that we may start to see a reversal in the decrease of death rates. There is still a lot of work to do. Getting people active and encouraging healthy eating are both key to helping prevent diabetes and obesity, and in turn preventing heart disease.
How has your previous experience in cardiology research and as a practice nurse specialising in cardiovascular risk prevention influenced your ability to comment on research findings and new developments?
My work in cardiac rehabilitation and as a practice nurse kept me abreast of cardiovascular risk prevention, which was really helpful in my work here at the BHF promoting heart health.
My roles as a research nurse, and the post-graduate training I have undertaken both helped me gain an insight into critically analysing research papers. However, I have also received training and support from colleagues at the BHF that has enabled me to comment on research findings and new developments in cardiology.
It sounds like you have a very varied scope in your current role. How has that variety helped you develop as a nurse and as an individual?
One of the great things about my job is that it is incredibly varied and I have the opportunity to work in many different areas and on different projects. This keeps the job interesting and stimulating. It also helps to keep me motivated and offers a lot of job satisfaction.
What professional development do you have planned for the future to further enhance your knowledge and ability as a cardiac nurse?
I am particularly interested in maintaining my knowledge and skills in the area of cardiac genetics. I am about to undertake an ‘update course’ in genetics for health professionals. This will hopefully provide a refresher and also and inform me of new developments. I have the opportunity to sit in on specialist cardiac clinics and also observe specialist cardiac tests and investigations, which helps to keep my hand in with what is happening in the clinical world. This is invaluable in informing my BHF work, and it’s also a great opportunity to help update and maintain my own professional development.
What would your advice be to anyone interested in a career in cardiac nursing be? Would recommend any speciality in particular?
The fantastic thing about cardiac nursing is that there are so many different specialties to work in, so you really have the opportunity to choose an area you are interested in. You’ll never get the chance to be bored! Jobs vary from working on a cardiac surgery wards to working in rehabilitation in the community. In recent years specialist nurse roles have been developed specializing in different areas of cardiac care – from heart failure to heart rhythms.
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