Meet a Cardiac Arrhythmia Nurse Practitioner
At 6:30 most mornings Mary Leier, NP, begins her day in the Electrophysiology Program at the Smidt Heart Institute by responding to emails and telephone calls from cardiac arrhythmia patients. How can they prepare themselves for their upcoming diagnostic test or procedure? Could she help them with a prescription issue? Now that they have their pacemaker or defibrillator, how soon will they see an improvement?
"Each patient is an individual," said Leier, a nurse practitioner with advanced education and training in the diagnosis and management of conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia. "Some have a harder time dealing with their condition and need support for a while, whereas others just bounce back."
Having the opportunity to work closely with these patients was one of the reasons Leier decided to join the Electrophysiology Program in 2015. She also wanted to be involved in providing the comprehensive care that the program offers to patients, and she looked forward to working alongside the program's electrophysiologists, who had outstanding reputations.
Originally, Leier applied for an unrelated nursing position at Cedars-Sinai. But she was recruited by the Electrophysiology Program's leadership after a recruiter noticed her cardiology background, her experience working with electrophysiologists, and her dedication and determination.
"Given the rapid evolution and increased complexity of electrophysiology cases and procedures, nurse practitioners are playing a critical role in facilitating and extending care provided.'' said Sumeet Chugh, MD, director of the Heart Rhythm Center and the electrophysiology section chief, who coordinated Leier's recruitment. "Her involvement directly enhances the care and overall experience of our patients."
Chugh said Leier plays a critical role in clinical services, with a primary focus on patient education, clinical triage and follow-up care. Her involvement in the program points to the growing role of the electrophysiology nurse practitioner at the Heart Institute. Currently, nurse practitioner positions are held in several areas within the institute, including interventional cardiology.
Leier's advanced training and experience in family medicine enables her to provide a broad range of care, from writing and refilling prescriptions to helping patients cope with the effects of illness on their lives and families. She spends time with patients to understand their needs and concerns, and works closely with the physicians to formulate comprehensive care plans for them.
"Having someone who is an extension of the physician to help facilitate the transition of patients from their in-hospital stay to follow-up care outside the hospital is essential," said Michael Shehata, MD, director of the Pacemaker and Defibrillator Clinic at the Heart Institute. "Because Mary talks to patients daily, she is essentially the face of our program. She develops those personal relationships with patients, which is key in helping them understand their condition and treatments."
It's all part of her daily routine.
Once Leier has responded to those early-morning emails and phone calls, she participates in the electrophysiology team's 7 a.m. meeting. After 8 a.m., Leier shifts to meeting with patients and their families — "definitely my favorite part of the job and day,'' she said.
Patients often need her help coping with the heart conditions they are facing.
"You can tell when you walk into a room how well a family is coping," Leier said.
"Working here at Cedars-Sinai, the confidence level is so high that we can look patients in the eye and say, 'You are in good hands,'" she said. "I am proud of the care that we provide."