A lifelong love of learning propelled Morgan into the role of advanced practitioner, teacher, and mentor.
Kate Morgan, MSN, ACNP-BC, CHFN, is an acute care nurse practitioner in an inpatient cardiology practice at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Cary, NC.
How did you get your start in nursing?
After graduating in 1995, I spent quite a few years working as an ER nurse. For the last 15 years I’ve been a nurse practitioner (NP). I started as a hospitalist NP, which was a good starter and gave me exposure to a smattering of all the different specialties. That’s how I found that I really loved cardiology. So, I joined a hospital-owned cardiology practice and I've been doing that for the last 10 years.
Why did you feel so passionate about cardiology?
A large part of it is knowing that we can make a big difference in patients’ lives because we have so many evidence-based treatments that have been shown to improve quality of life. In particular, the subspecialty of heart failure has changed so rapidly and that has been exciting. In recent years we’ve seen a new universal definition of heart failure and chest pain guidelines to help with evaluation and treatment. The chest pain guidelines are especially important to me, because they are the basis for my current doctoral project.
Describe some aspects of your job that keep you feeling passionate about your profession.
Sometimes I think that what I do is kind of like being a detective. I'll get the call from the emergency department or the hospitalist for a consultation, and I'm the first one to go through the case, research, evaluate, and assess the patient. In doing all that, I try to come up with the diagnosis and the treatment plan and involve my attending once I've formulated most of my plan. To me, that part of the job is really special because you want to know the bottom line, which is how can we help this patient. You also want to make sure that you are putting into practice the latest interventions and guidelines.
Sometimes I admit the patients who I see for consults, and I follow up with them and maybe even discharge them. So, with some of those patients I’m there from the beginning of their hospital experience and many times we develop a long-term relationship because they frequently do come back, especially my heart failure patients.
How did you decide to move to the next level and pursue your doctorate?
I’m kind of a self-described nerd when it comes to continuing education. I find a lot of value in keeping up to date and attending conferences and gaining certifications. The Heart Failure Society of America has just introduced a brand-new certification—HF-Cert. It’s offered to providers who have demonstrated advanced-level knowledge, skill, and competency in HF services. I jumped right on that one and took the exam as soon as it was offered.
Pursuing the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), however, was really based on the fact that it would allow me to expand into an area that greatly interests me: teaching at the university level. As I get older, the 12-hour shifts are very demanding and very long. My goal is to cut down on some of the clinical shifts and pursue more academic interests in the future. I’m currently on the faculty at Norwich University in their acute care adult program, which I love. That's really where my passion is—the chance to teach the new NPs and be involved in influencing, mentoring, and sharing my experience of what's important in patient care. For me, it’s critical to have an understanding and a connection to the academic side and translate that into practice and how it affects our patients.
My doctoral project is on improving chest pain, observation, and length of stay. That was something that needed to be improved in my organization, so it was an academic mission rooted in a real-life issue. Through the work I did I was able to devise some strategies to help my organization improve on length of stay for that population.
Burnout has been a big issue in nursing for a while now, with the situation deteriorating further during the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you think the profession needs to do to keep itself healthy and thriving?
I think we are all aware that nursing is an exhausting job with many demands. Sometimes it seems like even if you had a 200-hour shift you couldn’t get it all done. I understand colleagues who say they just want to do their job and go home because they’re tired. We all get it and we’ve all been there. But I also think that we, as a profession, need to invest in ourselves now more than ever. We need to emphasize the importance of continuing education to the establishment of our future, and we have to think a little more academically about ourselves than we have historically been trained to do. I'm very early in my academic career, but one of my goals is to incorporate education and strategies for continued professional and role development within the NP program at the university level. It's important to train nursing students in networking skills and to require demonstrated continual professional development. The bottom line is that it’s a value-add to the organization that you are working for, it’s a demonstration of your commitment to your profession, and it’s a huge potential motivator of growth and change in our profession.
How do you feel about the role of social media in professional development?
There are many wonderful people in the cardiology community with social media accounts that are informative and cutting-edge in terms of sharing the latest research papers or presentations. While it’s very important to keep up with trends and opinions on key subjects, it’s also just too easy to go down a rabbit hole that isn’t going to be educational or supportive. I think many of us have experienced the negative aspects of professional Twitter and it’s not pretty. In the limited time I spend on Twitter, I look to see what some of the thought leaders in the field are saying. I look to Dr. Martha Gulati, an expert in women and heart disease, and Dr. Biykem Bozkurt, acclaimed professor and practitioner, for example, because I know they are always going to have a fresh take and I might learn a thing or two.
There are also a number of closed online networks that I use and encourage others to use, such as the Point of Care Network (POCN), which provide a safe environment to network, support each other, and find professional development content. Some of them also offer mentoring, which as I mentioned earlier, I very much enjoy. Those online forums are the ones that I use most because I feel they are less “social media” and more professional engagement. I also enjoy working with the American College of Cardiology on the CV Team section’s Communications Work Group committee, discussing and promoting their initiatives.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The last few years have been devoted to pursuing my doctoral degree, so I haven’t had time to devote to hobbies or anything else. Once I graduate, I’d love to take up pickleball. I need to increase my physical activity and develop a healthy routine, and I’ve heard pickleball is fun and it seems like something I would enjoy.