Nurse Practitioner Aims to Improve Patient Care in the Intensive Care Unit

For the last ten years, Andrea Petkovic-Wintemute worked as a registered nurse before pursuing a Master’s program to become a Nurse Practitioner. She spent the majority of her career in the adult intensive care setting. During this time, she cultivated her passion for caring for these patients and wanted to pursue research focused on Intensive Care Unit (ICU) delirium, specifically the non-pharmacological interventions utilized to prevent and treat it.

Delirium is a reversible, neurocognitive syndrome or form of acute brain failure. It’s typically associated with an underlying medical condition like surgery, infection or critical illness that can cause it. It can manifest in many different ways.  Hypoactive delirium is where the patient is withdrawn, sluggish and quietly confused. In hyperactive delirium, the patient can be very agitated, combative or experience hallucinations or delusions.

“This can be very distressing for patients themselves as well as their families and hospital staff.”

Andrea was awarded the Florence and Lloyd Cooper Alberta Registered Nurses Educational Trust (ARNET) Scholarship for the excellence she’s shown in pursuing her Nurse Practitioner program. Education advancement and research is one of Calgary Health Foundation’s priority areas in enhancing healthcare for our community.

“I was really honoured and very excited to be awarded the scholarship. I am grateful for the generosity of the Cooper family, Calgary Health Foundation and ARNET. It really made me feel validated that the research I was working tirelessly on was being recognized as important.”

The scholarship helped provide a sense of financial stability so she could focus on her research and all the other requirements of the Nurse Practitioner program.

“I was always inspired by the nurses and doctors who I worked with. They always strived to provide excellent care and they engaged in or implemented their own research at the bedside to provide the best care for patients,” says Andrea.

Prior to starting this program, Andrea found herself constantly doing her own research and being fascinated by medicine and the difference she could make in someone’s life, which led her to pursue further education.

“It allowed me to bridge nursing and medicine and have a different role in the care of the patient, as well as provide stepping stones for my own knowledge so I can conduct and participate in research in the future.”

Her research is critical because delirium can cause prolonged lengths of stay in the ICU and hospital, increased mortality rates, and long-term cognitive impairment. It also comes at an increased cost to the hospital system.

Andrea sees a career in nursing as a privilege that is extremely rewarding. Being able to support, care for and educate patients and families when they’re at their most vulnerable is one of the best elements of her work. She also loves nursing because it allows for lifelong learning.

“To be part of change and new research being implemented, it’s just incredible.”

She currently works as a Nurse Practitioner at the Peter Lougheed Centre ICU. This is particularly special to her because this is where she was working prior to furthering her education.

“It was an honour to come back to the same unit, just in a different role. I feel very humbled to continue to work with the same amazing professionals.”

She notes that working in the ICU comes with its own unique set of challenges. Patients are critically ill and often what happens to them is sudden and unexpected.

“Unfortunately, that means I need to have many difficult conversations with patients and their loved ones. Although it can be challenging emotionally, I also feel like it’s part of my role where I can make a difference by providing empathy, simply listening to them, or advocating for their wishes.”

Andrea thrives in the often unpredictable nature of the ICU, where no two days are the same, and she feels that every day she comes in, she gets to be challenged.  She now gets to apply the research and education she’s acquired to her job and is inspired by the impact of this work that she gets to experience every day.

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