The field of electrophysiology – or the study of the electrical system of the heart – is very complex and often difficult to understand for both health care providers and patients alike.
As the lead nurse in electrophysiology at Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls, Linda Bremberger has a knack for bringing very technical medical information down to a patient’s level of understanding.
Not only is it confusing for patients experiencing heart problems, it’s also frightening to face implantation of an electrical device in their heart to shock it and make sure it doesn’t go into a fast, life-threatening heart rate, says Dawn Marie Kutz, director of cardiac services at Community Memorial.
“Linda’s main goal is to make sure her patients understand what is going on with their body, and understand what it is the doctor will be doing to them,” Kutz says. “I have seen patients come into our hospital very scared and leave here with big smiles on their faces.”
Bremberger’s first exposure to electrophysiology came when it was discovered that her 4-year-old son had a cardiac anomaly. Her son’s heart would sometimes race up to 250 heartbeats per minute, and he would tell his mother that his tummy was bumping.
“When he would have these episodes, it was pretty scary for the people around him,” Bremberger said. “As a parent, it was also hard to figure out. I think I have a pretty close vantage point to this. You have to place a lot of trust in people you have never met before and hope they do a good job.”
Many of the patients she sees have experienced a sudden cardiac event, such as passing out or being in a car accident.
Bremberger frequently uses analogies with patients to help them understand what is going on, such as making a comparison to the timing in a car’s engine.
“I have always believed that the role of the nurse is to get people back to life,” she says. “I feel as though I try to empower them to be in charge of themselves — to be confident when they leave here that they are calling the shots. It’s really gratifying for me when they get that look and say, ‘Ok, I can do this.'”
Bremberger has started a support group for patients with cardiac defibrillators, spending hours talking about the intricacies of heart defibrillation in ways that they can understand.
“Linda isn’t just an educator, she is a support system,” Kutz says.
“You develop a pretty significant relationship with these people,” Bremberger says of her main work with cardiac patients. “You get to know them and what is going on in their lives. I think they realize that I am interested in them, and to an extent, I live through their own life experiences.”