Cardiac Nurse Becomes Cardiology Provider

When nurse practitioner Haley Pacholec joined the Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular cardiology team recently, her face was anything but new. That’s because she had already worked for three years as a registered nurse in the cardiac catheterization lab. In fact, she had spent her entire career at Adventist Health Portland.

Haley began her nursing career in the intensive care unit. Her passion for her patients led her to want to become more involved in all their care. “In the ICU, you just get this little snapshot of patients,” Haley explains. “You don’t get to see how they’re doing and follow up with them.”

This realization led Haley to begin her Master of Science in Nursing and nurse practitioner training at Gonzaga University. In the meantime, she continued working as an RN at Adventist Health, transitioning from the ICU to the cath lab.

A natural fit

Working in heart care touched on Haley’s personal history. While growing up as a competitive Nordic skier, Haley occasionally would pass out for no apparent reason. Each time, the evaluation came back normal.

Finally, an episode in college with an incredibly slow heart rate made it clear Haley needed intervention. “I ended up getting a pacemaker when I was 19,” she says. While that ended her competitive career, it sparked her professional one.

“I think it really just opened my eyes to the medical system because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to go into at that point in time,” she recalls. “What made me decide to be a nurse was seeing how the bedside nurse was really involved and what a big impact they made on patient care.”

An offer too good to refuse

As Haley was finishing up her master’s and nurse practitioner studies, she and her husband began planning a move to Napa, California, to join family near their new vineyard. When Dr. Fawaz Alhumaid, Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular arrhythmia services director, heard Haley was graduating and moving, he encouraged her to consider staying at Northwest Regional as a cardiology nurse practitioner.

“It was just too good of an option to pass up,” she admits. “It’s the people at Adventist that really make it everything. There’s been a lot of people I’ve worked with that have left and actually come back to Adventist because you just can’t get better people. It’s just a really good crew.”

Patients seem to sense the power of this committed and collaborative team. “I have so many patient interactions where they tell me that they’ve been coming to Adventist for years and every single person that they interact with is just absolutely wonderful,” Haley says. “It’s just a special place.”

A dream come true

Haley’s dream of seeing patients over a longer period of time has come true thanks to her new role. She’s a key member of the valve replacement team, both in the hospital and in the clinic. In the hospital, Haley makes sure patients are ready to leave the hospital after their procedures.

“I’m checking to make sure that everything is stable, they’re feeling good, they’re eating and up moving, their pain’s controlled, they’re not having any bleeding issues, and everything is set for them to go home,” she explains. She also makes sure they understand their medications and what to expect going forward.

The following week, Haley sees the patient at the clinic, followed by appointments every few months and eventually every year. Through each step, her own experience with heart issues shapes how she approaches patient care.

“I feel like an understanding from a patient’s perspective — especially going through procedures and what to expect and just the nerves that are associated with that — has made a really big impact on my ability to take care of patients,” she says. “I can understand where they’re coming from a lot more easily.”

And being there to guide them through their own health transformation is what drives Haley’s continuing commitment to Adventist Health Portland’s patients. “I think it’s most important for patients to know just that I really care and I want to be able to be there for them as much as possible,” she says.