Meet David Patterson, Associate Chief Nursing Officer–Cardiovascular and Surgical Services at SMH
Nursing wasn’t on David Patterson’s radar from the beginning. He graduated from high school and went straight into the Marines at the height of the Vietnam War.
It was only when he returned home on leave that David met his wife, Joan Marie (Joni), and had his first real introduction to healthcare. At age 16, Joni was diagnosed with thymoma—cancer of the thymus. Her doctors had given her three months to live. When the couple met, she was 19 and cancer-free, but in a full-body cast from hip surgery. “I tell people that I asked her to marry me because she couldn’t run away,” Patterson jokes.
Throughout their marriage, Joni’s health continued to decline. At 27, she developed congestive heart failure. She was hospitalized a total of 62 times. At one point, David was sitting in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) watching the nurses care for his wife, when he thought, “I can do this,” and went back to school for his nursing degree.
David began his nursing career in the intensive care unit at UPMC, but when his wife passed away in 2001, he decided to make a change. His kids were out of college, and he was free to go anywhere he chose.
He took a nursing position in St. Petersburg at a local hospital, where he spent the next four years. Then, in 2009, a job opened up at SMH. David applied, and he has been there ever since. Four years ago, the hospital asked him to oversee surgical services, in addition to the cardiovascular services he was already managing. Today, he manages a team of 1,200 employees.
A deep respect for the hospital’s mission and values has kept David at SMH for the last 12 years. “It’s really and truly about patient care and quality of work,” he says. “They’ve given me the resources to build a quality program. “
Philanthropy Plays a Critical Role
Philanthropy has been instrumental in launching several initiatives, including construction of a hybrid operating room and the hospital’s transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program. “We were one of the first hospitals in the country to be recognized for our TAVR program,” Patterson says. Currently, SMH has performed over 1,300 TAVR procedures and is the first in southwest Florida and among the first 25 in the nation to be certified by the American College of Cardiology for its expertise.
The hybrid operating room combines the best elements of a surgical suite with advanced imaging in a cardiac catheterization lab. The dual functionality provides a team of specialists the optimal environment to treat complex patients who may require simultaneous catheterization and surgical interventions.
In addition to performing valve replacements, SMH uses the hybrid operating room to care for new mothers with placenta previa, a condition in which the baby’s placenta partly or completely covers the mother’s cervix. It can cause life-threatening bleeding in the mother during delivery if not properly treated.
Being able to bring every specialist together in the hybrid operating room has been lifesaving. “We deliver somewhere between six and 10 babies a year in that room, and we haven’t lost one mother or child,” Patterson says. “That to me is a success story.”
Grants from the Healthcare Foundation have also supported the purchase of echocardiogram machines and a new electrophysiology lab. These services have helped SMH’s cardiovascular program remain one of the highest rated in the country, attracting some of the nation’s top doctors to the Health System. “Physicians want to go where there’s quality and they have access to all the latest equipment,” Patterson says.
The Healthcare Foundation’s support goes beyond facilities and technology. With the help of its donors, funding also provides for staff education and certification to ensure that SMH retains its prestigious Magnet Nursing hospital designation, and also supports the annual Cardiac Summit, which is free and open to the public.
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