Hero in Health: Kirsten Deemer

Empowering patients and families in care planning

Kirsten Deemer: Nurse Practitioner, ICU, South Health Campus.

Kirsten Deemer is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at South Health Campus. Together with her colleagues, she created the Persistent Critical Illness – or PerCI– pathway, which provides a template of care for critically ill patients that require a prolonged stay in the ICU. Kirsten empowers patients and their families to contribute to their care plan. That’s what makes Kirsten our Hero in Health!

The Heroes in Health initiative encourages patients and their families to give back in thanks for the extraordinary care they’ve received. To donate and nominate your health hero, visit our website.

“Kirsten is an outstanding Nurse Practitioner in the ICU. She is very dedicated to her patients. This year she created the PerCI pathway in collaboration with key partners in the ICU,” said her nominator for the Heroes in Health program.

As a child, Kirsten developed a keen interest in medicine, anatomy and physiology. After completing her undergraduate nursing degree at Dalhousie University, she pursued a career in critical care nursing in Halifax.

“I felt like it was an honourable profession to go into, as well as one where you could really make a difference in peoples’ lives,” Kirsten said. 

She chose to pursue further education to broaden her scope of practice and knowledge base, and completed a Master of Nursing, Adult Nurse Practitioner at the University of Toronto. Kirsten moved from Halifax to Edmonton to do her training, eventually landing in Calgary, and has been at South Health Campus for 10 years now.

Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have additional education at the masters level or above. With that training, they have expanded privileges and education to prescribe medications, complete history and physical exams as well as prescribe treatment plans. In certain settings, NPs perform different types of procedures and intervene to rapidly stabilize critically ill patients.

Kirsten works with a multi-disciplinary team to care for complex, critically ill patients. The team includes registered nurses, intensive care physicians, respiratory, physio and occupational therapists, pharmacists, speech language pathologists, dieticians, and social workers.

“NPs provide continuity in care and are usually the most consistent provider for our long stay patients. We identify challenges and help prevent complications that can develop with long-term ICU patients.”

With her colleagues, Kirsten developed the “Persistent Critical Illness Pathway, or PerCI Pathway” which goes into extensive detail on the best pathway to care for long-term critical care patients. Care plans are developed around the patients wishes and goals, as well as what their expectations are for recovery. These care plans help keep families and patients apprised to all the changes in their care, as well as encourage families to participate in planned developments.

For Kirsten, the most rewarding part of her job is when she sees patients graduate from the ICU with the intention that they can go home eventually.

“We know that there were so many multidisciplinary providers that took part in making that happen. It’s a labour of love for sure.”

Unfortunately, some patients don’t survive the ICU, but she feels a sense of satisfaction when she’s had a good relationship with the family and allowed people to pass with dignity and respect.

What’s most challenging for her is balancing numerous competing interests at the same time.

“You can have multiple patients who are critically ill, and you need to attend to all the patients’ needs.  This requires a multidisciplinary team of experts to provide care.”

Kirsten, we’re proud to call you a Hero in Health, and to have you as part of our extended family.

Heroes in Health is part of our Grateful Patient initiative. Patients and their families can make a gift to Calgary Health Foundation and recognize their healthcare heroes. To donate and nominate your hero in health, visit our website.

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