NVRH Logo and Link to Home Page
  
Donate   |   Contact NVRH   |   Directions   |   Home
About Us Navigation Button healthcare Providers Navigation Button Services Navigation Button Patient and Visitor Information Navigation Button Community and Wellness Resources Navigation Button Employment Opportunities Navigation Button Support NVRH Navigation Button

BUILDING HEALTHCARE PARTNERSHIPS

How Can We Help You?
Community & Wellness Resources
Healthy Choices Newsletter
Community Health Fund Information
Blueprint/Medical Home
Community Connections
Local Wellness Resources
Community Partner Links
NVRH Medical Library
Health Information Links
Depression Information
Community Health Needs Assessment
Vermont Health Connect
No Sugar Added
Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
Foodbank at NVRH
Tick Information
Accountable Health Community
Regional Prevention Partnerships
Resources for Seniors
Summer Food Safety
  print this page
  tell a friend

Inspired By Her Son, Lead RT Aims to Advance Respiratory Care in NEK

Monday, December 31, 2018

When Heather Nelson, NVRH's lead respiratory therapist, sits with patients in the emergency department, meets with them in support groups, or works with them through treatment plans, she knows the importance of her presence, her knowledge, and her calm demeanor. For her, respiratory care is personal.

Heather’s second child, Caleb, was born with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) – a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to never develop the autonomic breathing function. Without such function, a person can hypoventilate, especially during sleep, and management of the disorder often requires a pacemaker to stimulate diaphragm, a trach affixed at all times, and a ventilator at night. For much of his early life, Caleb spent days, weeks, and months in and out of the hospital with his parents at his bedside. During that time, Heather sought answers about the rare disorder and was eager to learn alongside the hospital staff, seeking to be able to provide the best care for her son once discharged from the hospital.

“No one was talking about CCHS, leading research, or had many answers about it. I knew if Caleb was going to manage the disorder and lead the fullest life possible, I’d have to be able understand the disorder and provide care too,” Heather said.

Committed to becoming educated and equipped to provide the best care, Heather entered a respiratory therapy degree program, and during her clinical training, it became apparent the choice would lead to something much greater.

“I enjoyed working with others, and ongoing encouragement from practitioners and patients validated the choice to further pursue respiratory therapy as a career to help others too,” Heather said. “At first, I told people ‘I already live this’ and didn’t want to work with in it too, but that quickly changed as I learned more, worked more directly with patients, and saw the importance of respiratory therapy in overall healthcare.”

Heather spent her clinical time at a hospital and rehabilitation center in east central Vermont, but when inquiring with a professional mentor about what type of facility she could make the largest impact for patients at following clinicals, she was advised to pursue an opportunity with a rural healthcare system.

“I developed great critical thinking skills and built a strong clinical foundation at a larger facility but knew the environment I was looking for – partnership with providers, working directly with patients, respect for my expertise, and the ability to make a difference – would be best in a smaller hospital,” Heather said. “This desire brought me to NVRH.”

Now in her fourth year at NVRH, and recently becoming the lead respiratory therapist, Heather has high hopes for continuing to advance respiratory therapy at NVRH and for individuals throughout the Northeast Kingdom (NEK). From her personal experience with Caleb, and the ongoing need for a nurse with him at school and an overnight nurse at home, she is inspired to advance this discipline and be an advocate in the NEK. She works with both inpatients and outpatients, with a focus on emergency department patients, community education, and advancing care in primary care clinics.

“I really love bedside care,” Heather said. “Having trouble breathing is a very scary time for people, and they often need someone to understand what they’re going through. I tell them ‘I will not leave you.’” 

The NEK, like many rural areas across the country, posts higher rates of a leading respiratory illness – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – than metropolitan areas. Contributing factors include increased smoking rates, greater exposure to secondhand smoke, less access to smoking cessation programs, and higher rates of poverty and uninsured populations, which lead to greater risk and less access to early diagnosis and treatment. Rural economic sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and mining also expose individuals to bacteria, mold, fungi, dusts, and other particles that could lead to long-term lung issues too.

While such factors exist, Heather believes today’s reality doesn’t need to be the future. Through offering pulmonary rehabilitation, piloting respiratory navigation and self-management programming at primary care clinics, and launching a free support group for those with COPD, Heather is working to reduce risk factors and overcome barriers to treatment and management of COPD and other respiratory illnesses. These initiatives, programs, and interventions could help reduce hospital readmissions for COPD patients, reduce respiratory-related deaths, and improve quality of life.

“At NVRH, we’re improving the support, education, and programs available to help those with respiratory illnesses, specifically COPD,” Heather said. “This includes a one-on-one approach to help recondition individuals to live at their current capacity. What someone was able to do in their twenties or even a year ago may not be realistic anymore. However, we work with each individual to live to their fullest potential at their current capacity.”

 

That message of empowerment is one Heather carries between work and home. Caleb continues to excel at high school athletics – something that years ago doctors and coaches thought would be too risky to pursue. Through Team IMPACT, he’s been an honorary member of the Dartmouth College Men’s Hockey Team for nearly a decade – receiving locker room passes, game tickets, and regular time to hang out with the players and coaches. He continues to be a solid student and has big dreams for the future, including playing basketball at the collegiate level. Just as she seeks to give patients more control over their lives, the Nelson family is getting a dog this month to serve, long term, as a service dog for Caleb as he strives to become more independent.

“Diagnosis can certainly change the course of one’s life, but it doesn’t have to restrict one’s life. Caleb is proving that, and I work with patients every day who are proving that too,” Heather said.


General Surgeon Wendy Frye, MD joins Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital
Local Family Celebrates 529 Day
NVRH ED Director Attends ACEP
Allergy vs. Intolerance: Knowing the Truth Behind Your Symptoms
Dr. Joshua Kantrowitz Receives Childhood Immunization Champion Award
Gray Gallery Welcomes Local Artist Exhibit
NVRH Prevention Services Recognized by Governor Scott for Prevention Work
Vermont Department of Health Recognizes St. Johnsbury Pediatrics for High Immunization Rates
Miss Vermont to Promote Organ Donation at NVRH April 29
National Take-Back Day Events Scheduled for April 27
Automated Appointment Reminders Debut for NVRH Medical Practices, Patients
Youth Mental Health First Aid Addresses Common Mental Health Challenges
Sidewalk Buttlers Reduce Waste, Promote Health in Local Town
NVRH to Participate in National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16
Summer Edition of Local Wellness Newsletter, Resource Guide Released
Perinatal Task Force Raises Awareness About Risks of Marijuana Use While Breastfeeding
Emily Hutchison Joins NVRH as Director of Development
NVRH to Host AARP Smart Driver Class
St. Johnsbury Academy Student Artwork Displayed at NVRH Gallery
Palliative Care Storytelling Project Boosts Reflection, Connection
Up, Up, and Away and Other Poison Prevention Tips
Local School to Host Family Skill Program With Support of NVRH Prevention Services
Screenings, Prevention Highlighted During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Lab Discusses Benefits of New Draw Carts Donated by the Auxiliary
Pulmonary Rehab Offers Exercise, Education, and Support
Patient Safety Week Highlights the Importance of Communication
The Power of the Plate: NVRH Celebrates National Nutrition Month
Emergency Preparedness Boosted at NVRH with New Disaster Response Trailer
Pediatrics Project Helps Fight Hunger, Boosts Health
Lifesaving Equipment Added to ER Thanks to Radiothon Contributions
Online Bill Pay Now Available through NVRH Patient Portal
Bedside Interpreter Service Introduced at Birth Center
Michael Rousse, MD, MPH, Named Chief Medical Officer
Lyndon Institute Student Art Showcased in NVRH Gallery
Volunteers Knit Comfort, Stress Relief for Patients at NVRH
All About the Bones: Dr. Prohaska Offers Health Tips for Strong Bones
Tara Bugbee, DO, Earns Board Certification in Emergency Medicine
Mulkern, CNM, MPH, Joins NVRH Women's Wellness Center Team
Gray Gallery at NVRH Features New Art Exhibit
Area Hospitals Collaborate to Enhance Sleep Medicine Services With New Clinic
Chandler to Keynote WRAP Annual Meeting
Inaugural NVRH Nursing Career Expo to be Hosted Feb. 22
Successful Annual Appeal Boosts Growing Hospital Music Program
Cornerstone School Launches Inaugural Afterschool Program With NVRH Support
Foulke, FNP, Joins NVRH Hospital Medicine Team
NVRH Welcomes First Baby of 2019
Community Presentation & Panel to Address Vaping, Youth Use
Inspired By Her Son, Lead RT Aims to Advance Respiratory Care in NEK
Growing Music Program at NVRH Enhances Healing
CEO Shawn Tester Releases Holiday Message
Coalition, Retailers Collaborate to Decrease Underage Alcohol Access, Consumption
Party Patrol Partnership Aims to Reduce Underage Drinking
Nationally Recognized Youth Mental Health Aid Course Offered Locally
Corporators, Leaders Gather for NVRH Annual Meeting
NVRH Awards Six Community Health Fund Grants
NVRH, Community Partners Conduct Emergency Evacuation Drill
New NVRH-Donated Local Sidewalk Buttlers Protect People, Environment
Tester Begins Tenure as CEO at NVRH
Nursing Education Enhanced with New Patient Simulator
New U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines Supported by NVRH
Art Gallery at NVRH Features New Exhibit
National Rural Health Day Recognized at NVRH
Auxilians and Volunteers Honored with Service Awards
Spirit of Service Exemplified by U.S. Veterans at NVRH
NVRH to Acquire Northern Physical Therapy
Med-Surg Honored with Prestigious National Award at Ceremony
National Take-Back Day Events to be Hosted on Oct. 27 in St. Johnsbury
Barnet-native Trisha Bullard, PA-C, joins NVRH Surgical Services
NVRH Holds Free E Bike Demo
NVRH First VT Hospital to Receive Prestigious Prism Nursing Award
Laura Nixon, Physician Assistant, Joins Surgical Services
NVRH Offers Free Counseling for Patients at Women's Wellness Center
NVRH Names Shawn Tester as Next CEO
NVRH Offers Important Facts About Marijuana Use and Newborns
NVRH Honors Abby Pollender with the Dr. John Elliott Community Service Award
NVRH Holds Annual Employee Recognition Dinner
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital Completes 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment
A NEW MRI SCANNER APPROVED FOR NORTHEASTERN VERMONT REGIONAL HOSPITAL
NORTHEASTERN VERMONT REGIONAL HOSPITAL HOLDS CORPORATOR QUARTERLY MEETINGS
Medication Take Back Box at NVRH
Janet Wilson is Full-time Family Nurse Practitioner at St. Johnsbury Pediatrics
Green Mountain Care Board Meets at NVRH
Green Mountain Care Board Meets at NVRH
Saint J Subaru Supports the Renovation of the Birth Center at NVRH
NVRH Completes Lighting Design Project in Collaboration with Efficiency Vermont
NVRH Laboratory Passes Rigorous Regulatory Requirement
NVRH Auxiliary Receives Distinguished Service to Philanthropy Award
Gauthier's Pharmacy Receives a Permanent Prescription Drug Disposal Kiosk
Family Nurse Practitioner Joins NVRH Corner Medical
Gratitude and Generosity
NVRH Orthopaedists Get a Name Change!
Women's Wellness Welcomes New Nurse Practitioner
Dartmouth Medical Student Eric Ndikumana Completes Family Medicine Rotation at Corner Medical
Tom Ziobrowski, MD Retires after Almost 40 Years
MacKenna Cole, St. J Academy Senior Makes Bench for the NVRH Chapel for Capstone Project
Cynthia A. Swartz, MD Joins NVRH as Inpatient and Outpatient Consult Psychiatrist
Carlos Alfaraz, MD Joins Corner Medical as Full-Time Practitioner
Tennyson Marceau is the Prevention Specialist for The Regional Prevention Partnerships
NVRH is First Vermont Hospital to Acquire Resuscitation Quality Improvement Program
Paul Bengtson Receives Advocacy Award from Kingdom Recovery Center
Katherine Harris, LICSW is Behavioral Health Specialist at Women’s Wellness
Jade Kaplan, Certified Nurse Midwife Joins Women’s Wellness at NVRH
FLEK, Inc. Garners Two National Awards for NVRH Annual Report
NVRH and Local Organizations Join Bridging for Health
Community Tobacco Prevention Grant Awards Announced
The Ticks are Out. Here's How to Be Tick Smart
Kelly Lemieux, Family Nurse Practitioner, Joins Hospitalist Group
Leah Pearl, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Joins NVRH
Anne Somers is New Practice Manager at Kingdom Internal Medicine
Sharon Mallett DNP, RN is New Director of the Medical Surgical, Pediatric and Infusion Units at NVRH
Karl Granskog, Doctor of Pharmacy, is NVRH's Ambulatory Care Pharmacist
Kara Pool, DNP, FNP-BC is New Full-time Provider at St. Johnsbury Pediatrics
Hazel's Success!
Joyce Vitale, Certified Nurse Practitioner Joins Kingdom Internal Medicine
Danielle Schryver, Registered Respiratory Therapist is Respiratory Care Supervisor
To The Rescue!
Listen to ER Director Ryan Sexton, MD on Ticks
Christopher Willey is New Manager of Materials Management at NVRH
Free Summer Meals for Kids at NVRH
NVRH Awards Dr. John Elliott Community Service Award to Tom Ziobrowski, MD
Jackie Zaun Is New Director of Diagnostic Imaging
John Koella, MD Joins Hospitalist Team at NVRH
Bridges Out of Poverty
Don't Let The Fear of Colonoscopies Kill You
Taking Back My Life
John Haygood Gives Original Stamp of The Four Chaplains to NVRH Chapel
Chapel of The Four Chaplains Receives Original Stamp on 73rd Anniversary of the SSDorchester Sinking
Nancy Burgess and her Success in Pulmonary Rehab
NVRH Celebrates First Baby of 2016!
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital
PO Box 905 1315 Hospital Drive
St. Johnsbury, Vermont 05819
802-748-8141
TTY/TTD, Dial 711
Contact NVRH   |   Directions   |   Join Our Team   |   Site Map   |   Privacy Notice   |   Home

Some documents on this website are in PDF format and may requre a PDF reader, you can download Adobe Reader here.
For additional accessibilty you can also download assistive technology plugins and software here.

© 2018 NVRH. All Rights Reserved.
facebook logo linkedin logo
glassdoor logo
Designed & Powered by Cambium Group, LLC