COVID-19 may have forced cath lab education to evolve, as we discussed in part one of our interview, but Ben Ochoa, Program Director for Invasive Cardiovascular Technology and Cardiac Sonography Programs at St. Phillips College and a fellow of the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals (FACVP), believes our new normal presents opportunities for leaders to revolutionize the field. When it comes to professional growth for cardiac techs and nurses, there are more opportunities than ever—and ACVP can help.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to grow… to get this education out there. The opportunity, really, is to almost build a middle class,” Ochoa says. The magnitude of this concept wasn’t lost on Ochoa, as he expressed how much potential had been found in his program’s newfound relationship with virtual learning. Plus, COVID-19 has inspired more students to look into health careers.
Ochoa believes that the virtual classroom has widened the opportunity for upward mobility and for students to find unprecedented levels of availability, from new cardiovascular professionals to experienced professionals seeking next steps in their career. “Our skill sets, they level you up in a sense," says Ochoa. "We see folks in our position—techs, having more pathways to get into next level stuff.”
In celebration of Cardiovascular Professionals Week, we interviewed LaToya Payton, the Program & Clinical Coordinator for Dallas College’s School of Health Sciences, to understand what she and her colleagues at Dallas College have done over the past several months to continue delivering cardiovascular education during COVID-19.
Her responses perfectly illustrate our theme for CVP Week 2021—cardiovascular professionals (and educators!) don't miss a beat.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the healthcare community in innumerable ways, from the “big picture” structure and function of our organizations, down to the minutiae of individual roles, responsibilities, and expectations within our institutions.
As we continue to conquer the hurdles set before us by COVID-19, taking note of what works and what doesn’t along the way, it is important that we consider the lessons and impact of the pandemic not only on our current practice, but in terms of how this period will inform our work in the years to come.
It is no surprise that in addition to care-delivering organizations, educational institutions have had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the pandemic, as physical distancing and other safety requirements have thrown a wrench into the scheduling of clinical learning opportunities, and the in-person instruction that is so critical to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals.
LaToya Payton’s responses were instructive for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they emphasized the centrality of information-sharing as we continue our fight against the SARS-COV-2 virus, and the importance of taking a flexible, collaborative approach to our shared challenges and to cardiovascular education during COVID-19.
Interview: Cardiovascular Education during COVID-19
Below you can find a written record of our conversation with LaToya Payton, along with some additional notes and resources, which might be useful to professional educators, students, and also those currently working in the field.
We have taken the liberty of expounding on the topics, ideas, and potential solutions she points to for finding new ways to deliver necessary knowledge and pursue team-based collaboration amidst the pandemic. Our notes/resources are added in the bullet points below each of LaToya Payton’s answers.
For nearly the past 400 days, healthcare workers across the world have been contending with the biggest global health crisis in over a century.
It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has strained our health systems, tested the resilience of healthcare team members, and caused suffering for individuals and families the world over. The ordeals of the past year have been difficult, to say the least, but there is both solace and obligation shrouded beneath the struggles of the SARS-COV-2 virus and the efforts those who have worked so diligently over the past 400 days to meet the occasion set before us.
The solace we might find in the pandemic is not in the virus itself, but in the ways in which it has enhanced our perspective and confirmed the tenacity and courage of the health professionals serving the public good.
The obligation it requires of us is to those very same professionals – that we must vocally and continuously show our gratitude for their arduous labor, trust in their judgments, and support their efforts in any and every way possible.
Our perspective of both the strengths and shortcomings of our healthcare system is clearer than ever before.
In addition to highlighting the immeasurable fortitude of healthcare professionals, the pandemic has shed light on many gaps and inequities in the delivery of health services. These gaps and inequities chart our path forward on the journey of constant improvement. Certainly, addressing our present concerns around Covid-19 must take first priority, but our ability to understand and articulate where we fall short is a necessary step towards the next iteration of our healthcare system.
Make no mistake, we are on the precipice of far-reaching change, and the medical professionals currently serving our societies are the stewards of current lessons for the next generation of the healthcare workforce. They are the frontline, the vanguard – agents of the critical progress ahead.
Celebrating CVP Week 2021 in your honor
We are indebted to these professionals always, but now more than ever, and it is all of our duty to celebrate their efforts and successes.
To celebrate health professionals appropriately, it is helpful to look back at our roots as a medical community and understand where we came from. Clarifying mission is a powerful exercise when determining “next steps,” and there are four lines from the modern Hippocratic Oath (rewritten in 1964 by Louis Lasagna), which have amplified relevance amidst the Covid-19 pandemic:
“I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
"I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
"I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
"I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.”
Information-sharing has been demonstrated to be essential every one of the past 400 days. This is a “world-building” exercise at its core, and allows us to work more efficiently and effectively.
The avoidance of “therapeutic nihilism” is a radical act against such heavy odds. But we must never fall prey to apathy and dejection in our pursuits lest we allow ourselves to fail.
Medicine is as much a human pursuit as it is a scientific pursuit, and we must treat it as such by operationalizing our compassion among our teams, within our communities, and between individuals.
Finally, ego has no place in medicine, and mission-focused collaboration holds the keys to our ultimate success.
Cardiovascular Professionals Week (CVP Week 2021) is a valuable platform to share information, reinforce community, fight apathy, recognize greatness, and fortify our incredible teams.
This year, celebration and recognition are not “extra” to the work of healing patients and saving lives – it is an integral part of those efforts. We urge you to take the opportunity to recognize your colleagues this February 14 – 20, 2021, and to do so knowing that you are making a tangible difference in the effectiveness of your team.
We are here to help you in any way possible. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for suggestions, assistance, and support. Our CVP Week Planning Document is freely available to assist you as well.
Thank you for all that you do, now and every day.
Zach McElgunn Education Director Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals
It's an overwhelming and busy time for every one—especially for our cardiovascular professionals who are doing their best to provide high quality care as hospital resources are diverted to containing the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals, we reached out to some of our fellows and leaders to offer insight into how COVID-19 is affecting work for cardiovascular professionals, how different organizations are handling the crisis, and what the future holds for cardiovascular professionals.
We are particularly thankful to new fellowJeff Richards, MBA, RCIS, FACVP, who made the time to provide us with the following, detailed response to kick off discussion among our entire network about how COVID-19 is affecting work for cardiovascular professionals.
If you have a spare moment, please tell us how COVID-19 is affecting your work!
As an RCIS in a very busy Cath Lab, my workflow has changed dramatically. Our lab went from doing twenty-five to thirty cases a day to less than five procedures. The Cardiology team has been diligently working to comb through patients and are only bringing to the lab individuals who are deemed urgent or emergent. The cardiac team is relying more heavily on coronary CTA than they may have in the past as it is generally quicker and exposes fewer staff members. That being said, we are still conducting outpatient, endomyocardial biopsies for post cardiac transplant patients as timely medication adjustments in the event of rejection are still crucial.
Our staffing model has changed drastically as well over the past few weeks. We are only bringing in one to two teams and are letting staff go home as quickly as possible throughout the shift. In the past, we have generally worked on three person teams consisting of a combination of nurses and technologists. Our workflow typically has one nurse sedating and one or two technologists driving the table and circulating. However, with our goal of reducing exposure, we have dropped the in-room team down to one nurse and one technologist, with a third team member outside the room to aid in fetching products, imaging consoles, and anything that may be outside of the procedure room.