Blue Devil of the Week: Putting ‘Heart and Soul’ into Work

Nurse Tiffany McEwen works in Duke’s Adult Cardiac Cath Lab

Blue Devil of the Week: Putting ‘Heart and Soul’ into Work.

Tiffany McEwen

Position: Registered Nurse in Duke Hospital Adult Cardiac Cath Lab

Time at Duke: Three years

What she does at Duke:

McEwen takes care of people’s hearts as a nurse in Duke Hospital’s Adult Cardiac Cath Lab where patients in all manners of heart distress are treated daily. “The heart has always been something I just got,” said McEwen, who thrives off the lab’s often frenetic pace, where she typically deals with four to five patients a day in all manners of heart distress. The Cath Lab deals with heart transplant patients, patients with on-going heart disease and patients actively having heart attacks, as well as individuals with structural heart conditions and peripheral vascular disease. As heart attack patients are rushed into the lab, McEwen and team members assist the doctors with performing the procedures necessary--procedures involving balloons or stents that help clear blockages in the heart. Nurses are in charge of dispensing medication during these procedures, as well as gathering necessary supplies.

A little heart history:

A sad event led McEwen to a happy career. Fascinated with the medical proceedings around her beloved grandfather’s heart disease, McEwen shadowed her grandfather’s cardiologist, Dr. Sameh Mobarek, as a high school junior after her grandfather passed away. McEwen went on to nursing school at East Carolina University. She’s currently finishing studies at Duke to be a nurse practitioner. She’s currently studying to be an Adult Geronotology Nurse Practitioner at Duke University School of Nursing. 

What she loves about Duke:

“We literally see patients from across the world,” said McEwen. She also enjoys the comradery among Duke employees, especially in her department. “I feel like it’s a big family. Everybody’s got each other’s backs.” The Cath Lab team socializes outside of work. “Most of the time we have cookouts at each other’s houses,” McEwen said.

A memorable day:

“A memorable night is more like it,” joked McEwen, who spends two weekend nights a month on call. McEwen couldn’t pinpoint a specific night, saying all the nights are memorable. “The adrenaline is crazy,” McEwen said of being on call, because being on call means if a heart attack patient comes in at 2 a.m. and McEwen’s pager goes off, she drives the approximately 30 minutes from her home in Mebane to Duke.

Best advice she’s ever received:

‘The Golden Rule,’ taught to her by her parents. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated,” McEwen said. This extends to medicine by remembering to do little things that help a patient keep his or her dignity during medical proceedings, McEwen said.

Hometown love:

McEwen took great pride in growing up in Apex. “Apex was an awesome place to have grown up, from growing and selling pumpkins when my sister and I were young to riding dirt bikes and four wheelers. I had an awesome childhood, only to be attributed to my parents, sister, family, and a small town community!”

What’s in a name:

“My nickname around here is ‘Squirrel’”, McEwen joked. McEwen said one of the senior Cath Lab nurses gives everybody nicknames based on what he perceives as their ‘soul animal.’ Squirrel seems fitting for McEwen, who has an infectious energy and speaks in a rapid-fire native North Carolina accent.

Something most people don’t know about her:

“I have a pet bunny that I absolutely adore. Her name’s Hazel.”

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