Nov. 9, 2023

Nurse Practitioner provides glimpse into her role in cardiac care

Nancy Clark, RN, NP, relishes the connections she makes with her patients and colleagues
Nancy Clark, NP, RN, gives us a glimpse into her health-care role
Photo Supplied by Nancy Clark

We sat down with Nancy Clark, RN, NP, the lead nurse practitioner for a team of cardiology nurse practitioners in the Cardiac Care Unit at Rockyview General Hospital (RGH) in Calgary, Alberta, to learn more about her role. 

How does your work differ from that of a registered nurse?

All NPs are registered nurses; however, NPs return to school to receive advanced training. As an NP, I can independently diagnose and prescribe treatments, something RNs don’t do. Within the cardiology service at RGH, the NPs collaborate with physicians, nurses and allied health staff, but NPs can also substitute as the Most Responsible Health Practitioner for the cardiology in-patient population. This means that NPs oversee and intervene in patient care, something beyond what an RN does.  

What’s a typical day look like for you? 

There is a lot of variability in my day-to-day practice, so I have developed a comfort in not knowing what my next encounter or clinical experience will be! My work is centered in clinical practice with patient assessment and management in the Cardiac Care Unit at RGH. Nurse practitioners (NP) in my unit are the first point of contact for consultations with the emergency departments as well as for any emergent or urgent consults within the hospital’s in-patient population. 

I am also the clinical nurse practitioner lead for a team of cardiology NPs. In this role I provide clinical mentorship and leadership guidance and support for a team of dedicated and compassionate NPs. It’s been one of the highlights of my career.

What education is required to be a nurse practitioner?

NPs have a master’s degree, often in nursing, and a post-master’s diploma or certificate. Some NPs have PhDs. The post-master’s education includes advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, leadership and ethics. The training also incorporates evidence informed research into clinical practice, with a minimum of three clinical placements. Finally, evaluations and a national written exam must be passed. 

What do you like best about your job?

I have more than 20 years of NP experience, and I enjoy almost every aspect of my role. Patients, their families, the health care team, the relationships that are built over time, and the experience of meeting someone new—all the connections with people—is one of the best aspects of my career.  

I enjoy providing comprehensive care to patients and their families, providing all the information patients need and ensuring they know they are being heard. Being a patient advocate is very important to me. I also like the accountability and responsibility of being a clinical leader for both the patients and the health care team. I take great pride in sharing information and taking part in research that can change the clinical experience for patients and/or health care providers.

What do you want people know about nurse practitioners?

NPs are here for you. They are accessible, knowledgeable and provide comprehensive health care. I feel very privileged that I have been able to pursue a career in an area of health care where I have been able to pioneer change while staying true to my core attributes of care and compassion as an acute care NP.