Long COVID, caregiver wellness and more: A cardiovascular service line leader's top priorities for the next year

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Stan Holland, director of the cardiovascular service line at Harrisburg, Va.-based Rockingham Memorial Hospital, discussed big trends in cardiology and caregiver wellness during a recent episode of the Becker's Healthcare cardiology podcast.

Here is an excerpt from the podcast. Click here to download the full episode.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What are your top priorities and how do you see them evolving over the next 12 months?

Stan Holland: One of the biggest things that's on my heart and all of our leaders' hearts is that our team of nurses on the cardiovascular service line all got deployed twice to the critical care unit, emergency room and progressive care units where they were caring for COVID-19 patients on the front lines. And it really was an eye opener for them. They were there because they wanted to be there to help. But this was intense and there's a lot of mental trauma with not just our nurses, but the CCU and ER nurses. There's a lot of articles popping up about post-traumatic stress syndrome. We're starting to see the nurses from CCU and PCU wanting to go to something that's not quite as intense. This is on top of already having nursing shortages with a lot of older folks getting ready to retire. When you put this on top of it, it just makes that harder.

Another thing is the long-term care of these COVID-19 patients, or long-haulers. This is a multiple system disease. I mean, it affects the cells in the heart. It affects the blood vessels and the lungs. It affects the blood vessels in the brain. It really is going to take a multidisciplinary group of teammates and physicians to really manage these patients. We haven't had to do something like this in a long time, so we've got to figure that out.

The loss of jobs has also caused a lot of hospitals to close, or their credit ratings have dropped dramatically. This is putting a huge economic and financial strain on the healthcare system. One source quoted a $200 billion loss last year across the system. With that increasing pressure, standalone hospitals aren't in the norm anymore. As systems try to come together to reduce costs with these economic pressures on them, it's just creating those kinds of changes in the field. We can't lose the value of the individual nurse or physician or respiratory therapist because everybody contributes to this team. Although you might be part of a bigger family now, you still have to be valued and appreciated for your contribution. 

So, there's a lot of things pulling right now in the healthcare industry. And I think it's going to be a long time before we settle out. We're starting to see procedural volumes starting to come back. That's very encouraging, but it's not like it's just going to come back, and nothing's ever happened. I think it will be a while before we sort through all this. 

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