Healthy returns – RN encourages her patients to a healthy life
story and photo by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Learning to make changes in diet and even mental changes to reduce stress helps patients feel so much better, said Sharon Hardesty, RN, and a certified cardiovascular rehab nurse at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital in northwest Oklahoma City. Her focus is the Outpatient Cardio Rehab Center.
The Outpatient Cardio Rehab Center is full of energy. It radiates among the patients with encouragement as well as the helpful staff.
“I think it can be exciting. We can really help our patients and lifestyle changes are a huge thing,” Hardesty said. “We can help our patients to overcome their disease and prevent them from having more issues. We see in cardio rehab so many positive changes in patients physically and mentally.”
Several of the nurses at OHH are certified. And OHH is working with the American Association of Cardiovascular Pulmonary Rehab to earn certification for it’s entire program.
All of the nurses share the same goals of wanting to help their patients improve and to prevent more heart issues, Hardesty said.
“We work together and we just respect each other. Everybody works hard,” she added.
There are nurses and exercise specialists. Some of them are exercise physiologists with masters degrees and others have varying degrees of specialization. Many of the RNs are becoming certified.
“So you can have your staff certified and the whole program certified,” Hardesty explained.
She has worked for both Oklahoma City campuses of OHH and moved to the northwest campus to work at the Outpatient Cardio Rehab Center.
Hardesty became inspired about a nursing career while she was in high school, serving as an aid to her science teacher. When she was about to graduate, he said to her, “Why don’t you become a nurse?’”
She followed her heart in a career that has been rewarding and also provided rewards to her patients. Each patient she works with has a goal of reaching their personal best. Hardesty’s compassion and training help them along the way with encouragement. She helps provide the stepping stones needed for their success.
A nurse since 1985, she began her career as a floor nurse and transitioned to a medical intensive care unit. So she has been a cardiac nurse for a long time, she said. Hardesty has worked in several areas of nursing, including emergency room, ICU and home health with cardiac and respiratory patients.
She loved those areas of nursing but said her focus in cardiovascular health has enriched her life the most because of the opportunities to become close to her patients. She can see the changes in their lives.
“You see them grow and you see them do so much better,” Hardesty said. “We know it works and we develop bonds. They become part of our family here.”
The intensive and regular cardio rehab programs provide 36 educational and exercise sessions, she said, making it different than most hospitals. Patients have cooking demonstrations and learn how to prepare more healthy foods, she said.
“We do yoga to help them relax,” Hardesty continued.
Sometimes patients are not aware of how they view life and the program helps them discover ways to lead better and less stressful lives.
“I think our program is really cool,” she said. “We see so many patients leave our program and feel so much better. They come in and it’s like night and day.”
So many of the patients have graduated from the program and come back feeling comfortable and relaxed. They like being close to their physicians and they know if anything happens, OHH will be there to help them.
Hardesty also likes keeping fit and exercise works well during her leisure time, she said.
“I have grandchildren, so I love spending time with them,” Hardesty said. “I love my church, and we have some get-togethers with our staff which is nice.”
She said the OHH staff is very proud of the hospital they serve. Everyone wants the patients to do well and they truly care about their patients’ lives and the health of the greater community.
“Patients respect that and they love that about us,” she said. “But we’re proud to work here because we all have the same goals.”