BSN Alumna, Now Family Nurse Practitioner, Sees COVID-19’s Impact on Cardiac Care
July 22, 2020 – Megan Berard (NHS’12), who earned her bachelor of science in nursing at Georgetown, is now a family nurse practitioner at an outpatient cardiology clinic in Austin.
Anecdotally, Berard says that she has observed heart patients postponing their care out of concern for coronavirus.
“As the number of COVID-19 cases increase significantly in Austin and Texas, I have anecdotally seen patients delaying care,” she said. “I have talked with people hesitant to come to the emergency department for such conditions as shortness of breath and chest pain. I have spent time educating my patients that they should still go to the hospital for emergencies, especially with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.”
“However, many patients are scared,” she added. “We are seeing patients present to the emergency department several days after the onset of chest pain and ultimately have poor outcomes.”
Advanced cardiac care has been negatively impacted since the increase of COVID-19 in the state has limited ICU beds, she said.
“Because our program is just starting, we still rely on the major medical centers in Houston and San Antonio to help provide such treatments as LVAD [left ventricular assist device] implants and transplants,” Berard said. “Unfortunately, Houston has been more seriously affected by COVID-19 and has had limited capacity to receive our critically ill patients, who may require such advanced procedures such as a heart transplant.”
Building a Career
Immediately after Georgetown, Berard worked at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital on the intermediate care unit. She then became a travel nurse, practicing around the United States in Austin, Boston, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.
“I fell in love with Austin,” she said. “After two travel nurse assignments, I obtained a permanent position as a clinic nurse at an outpatient cardiology clinic in Austin, where I worked for an interventional cardiologist in the clinic. I went back to school to obtain my family nurse practitioner degree from the University of Austin at Texas and graduated in May 2019. In September 2019, I started as a family nurse practitioner in the advanced heart failure program at the same outpatient cardiology clinic.”
As an advanced practitioner, she works with patients whose heart function has been diminished because of cardiomyopathy. The clinic, she noted, is beginning both extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and LVAD options for patients.
“I believe that the foundations I learned as an undergraduate student at Georgetown University have helped me to succeed as a nurse practitioner and throughout my career,” Berard said.
She particularly highlighted cura personalis: or care for the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.
“My four years at Georgetown have significantly shaped my eight years as a nurse,” she said. “I have always carried the mission, ‘cura personalis’ with me since my early nursing school days. Today, as I am evaluating patients for advanced heart failure treatments, I need to look at ‘the whole person.’”
She focuses on the patients, including the social determinants that may be negatively affecting their health and well-being. “It is important to treat the ‘whole person’ in heart failure as it is a lifelong chronic condition that requires long-term care,” she said.
Berard said she has deeply valued the collaboration she has seen within the ‘health care community’ during the pandemic and recognized the efforts of the individuals who have been working on the front lines.
“I never thought that within six months of becoming a family nurse practitioner, we would face a global pandemic,” she said. “I am impressed with the incredible teamwork within the health care community. I truly believe and have seen why they refer to this community as ‘heroes.’”
This has involved all members of the health care team: “They come to work every day ready to care for every patient with excellence. I am truly proud that I became a nurse and I believe that Georgetown University prepared me for this experience,” Berard said.
By Bill Cessato