When Barb Lemay was desperate for help, Lisa Lee, a nurse practitioner with the VGH Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic, made things happen.

“Our clinic relies on Lisa”

Vernon resident Barb Lemay is one of many singing Lisa Lee’s praises.

Diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) in 2000, Barb has beaten the odds; most patients live seven to 10 years after diagnosis of this rare lung disease. Still, she can’t do many things most of us take for granted. Her medication treatment program — prostacyclin therapy — requires her to be on an IV 24/7. And, in February, her IV Hickman line broke.

“I couldn’t get in to see my own doctor and a surgeon tried unsuccessfully to remove the line,” recalls Barb. That’s when Lisa, a nurse practitioner (NP) with the VGH Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic, made things happen.

“Lisa worked with local resources to find a vascular surgeon and radiologist willing to take my case. She also prescribed a course of antibiotics I can do from home, which meant I didn’t have to take time off work to travel to Vancouver.”

Barb’s story illustrates the difference NPs like Lisa make every day. “Our clinic relies on Lisa,” says Dr. John Swiston, medical director. “She’s a consistent presence and a big part of what the clinic’s been able to develop.”

A driving force behind new Rapid Access Clinic

Day to day, Lisa manages the prostacyclin therapy program, prescribing medications and educating patients on their use, and monitoring patients during therapy. She’s also a driving force behind the new PH Rapid Access Clinic that launched in November 2016.

Lisa (left) has been instrumental in keeping patients like Barb out of hospital, says Dr. Swiston, medical director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic.

Lisa has been instrumental in keeping patients like Barb out of hospital, says Dr. Swiston, medical director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic.

“The PH Clinic has grown considerably since I joined in 2012,” says Lisa. “Our physicians don’t have the capacity to see patients on demand, so instead we created a Rapid Access Clinic where I see patients who have immediate health concerns. This clinic is intended to prevent visits to Emergency and hospitalizations.”

Lisa orders different tests to see what a patient’s underlying problem is, changes medications and makes referrals to specialists as well as rehab and community programs. With 30 per cent of the clinic’s patients living outside Metro Vancouver, Lisa meets patients’ needs wherever they are, staying in touch via Telehealth, email, text and cell.

“The Rapid Access Clinic has formalized much of the work I was already doing,” says Lisa. “Since our patients have had access to a nurse practitioner, PH hospital admission days haven’t changed, despite the fact that the number of patients we work with has more than doubled.”

Filling gaps in the system

Lisa was drawn to the NP profession because she wanted to help patients access the care they need, when they need it.

“As a nurse, I was frustrated when I saw patients having difficulty getting care,” she says. “When I look at what nurse practitioners are accomplishing, I see us filling big gaps in the system and making very real differences in patients’ lives.”

Dr. Swiston agrees. “Lisa has helped to shape our clinic’s direction. Since she joined us, we’ve changed the way we do things and her work has been instrumental in keeping patients out of hospital.”

For Barb, Lisa’s patient focus means timely service and solutions — “she’s absolutely fabulous.”

Related stories

Barb sees gaps in care when others can’t

Because physicians can’t do it alone

 

Leave a Reply