Practice Makes Perfect With Heart Attack Care
KOLO 8 News Now anchor Kendra Kostelecky “experiences” a heart attack as part of training drills at Renown Regional Medical Center to improve speed and efficiency.
I recently had the privilege of experiencing a heart attack. I say “privilege” because in my case it was just a drill. Renown Regional Medical Center holds a quarterly drill to improve speed and efficiency in treating heart attack patients. Participating in this STEMI (S-T-Elevated Myocardial Infraction) Drill gave me a patient’s perspective of how the ER works.
The journey begins with the registration desk. Heart attack symptoms can be mild or vague, but the staff is trained to ask questions and look for signs of trouble. Once it was determined my symptoms signaled a possible heart attack, the staff wasted no time checking me in and setting up an electrocardiogram (EKG). A flurry of activity started with a technician, who introduced himself even as he hurriedly began connecting a dozen self-adhesive leads to my limbs and torso. He was friendly and willing to answer any questions I had, but there wasn’t much time to talk. Less than 5 minutes later, I was on a gurney ride into the ER.
Suddenly I was surrounded by a whole team. Almost at once, they began explaining what was “wrong” and their role in my treatment. They each addressed me by name and took the time to introduce themselves, which somehow made me feel welcomed despite the awkward circumstance. Then came a barrage of questions about my symptoms and medical history. Although this was just a drill, my mind began to swim and anxiety set in. I wondered, how could something like this happen so quickly? Do I know my family’s medical history? Who will feed the dog if I’m stuck in the hospital? “Can I call someone?” I asked. “Yes,” my doctor answered “we can help you with that.”
The gurney began to move again, cardiologist Frank Kelley, MD, FACC by my side. He explained the results of the EKG, and the need for immediate treatment. It would be an angioplasty to clear a blockage in the heart. Then more questions about my symptoms and any prescriptions I may be taking. Wow. Less than 15 minutes after I checked in, I was headed to the Cardiac Catherization Lab for a lifesaving procedure.
When we arrived at the next location, another team was waiting. Uniformed in purple scrubs, and standing at the ready. Even though their faces were covered by medical masks, they seemed to greet me with smiles. Once again, they explained their roles, answered my questions and let me know what would happen next. Since I was not actually in need of angioplasty, the drill ended here. It was just 30 minutes since I had checked in.
Improved response times achieved by the STEMI Drill could be the key to saving a life. That’s because every minute that passes during a heart attack can result in greater damage to your heart. “When we started this process somebody told me it’s just like the military,” explains Karen Meskimen, Cardiovascular Business Development Administrator at Renown. “The military does drills constantly and that’s what we want to be doing, because that’s how you identify opportunities where you can make things go better.” In a real life scenario she says the average time from check- in to treatment is less than an hour. The process of being passed from room to room and team to team could leave a patient feeling like they were on an assembly line. Friendly greetings, and a willingness to answer questions, make the patient a part of the process, which seems to keep that from happening.