On duty with... Michael O’Rourke
A Health Professionals’ cardiac nurse on location.
Welcome to another episode in our “On duty with...” series. We join one of our Cardiac Nurses in North London, as he prepares for a road show shift on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF)
So Michael, how important do you believe a road show like this is for getting the ‘keep a healthy heart’ message out to the general public?
A road show like this is vital because it takes the message of the importance of maintaining a healthy heart to the people who are most at risk in the community.
Based in a supermarket car park, it specifically, but conveniently, targeted people as they carried out their weekly shopping. Taking out a few moments to learn about heart health, could be the difference between someone developing heart disease, or not.
What kind of cardiac advice might you give to a member of the public who comes to the road show?
Actually, a lot of people who came to the road show had specific questions about medications and cardiac procedure, or operations that they may have had, or were due to have in the future.
This gave me the opportunity to address any individual concerns, and to increase their knowledge and understanding of the issues concerned.
Do you think that they listen?
Most people came to the road show with the intention of changing their lifestyles to improve their heart health – which was really encouraging.
As such, they were very interested in any new advice which we could give them and voiced their intentions to progressively change that particular aspect of their lifestyle.
And what about when they get home? Do they follow through your advice?
We’d like to think so. We gave all participants the opportunity of follow up contact from the BHF, so we can gauge the impact we had on any positive changes they subsequently made to their lifestyles.
Given the challenges of changing behaviour generally, many may inevitably revert to former habits which may be detrimental to their health.
How difficult is it to get these messages across to the average person, who isn’t medically trained or generally medically aware?
As most of the advice we give is based on diet and exercise, a medical background isn’t necessary to participate in the road show.
Most people are aware, for example, of the implications of a high fat diet on cholesterol – mainly due to other health campaigns and also the ongoing work of the BHF.
What have been the most fulfilling parts of this particular assignment as a Health Professionals cardiac nurse, in terms of using your knowledge to hopefully prevent spread of cardiac disease?
We meet many people who are genuinely interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle. For me, being in a position to advise patients on their heart health, and to discuss their needs, is the most fulfilling part of this assignment.
Could you please give us a ‘snapshot’ of what a typical shift might involve?
Shifts start at 10am. We set up the booths with literature and prepare the IT system. There is generally a steady flow of people by midday, right through until 6pm.
The number of people waiting often dictates the amount of time we can spend with one person, but we always make sure people went home with a new positive message about heart health.
A single consultation can take up to 20 minutes depending on the person’s interests and needs.
I’m really enjoying putting my cardiac skills and knowledge into action with the general public. And to be associated with a pioneering organisation like the BHF is a privilege.
We leave to let Michael set up for his shift. We’ll be joining him again another time to talk about another area of his duties for the BHF, manning the charity’s healthy heart telephone line...