This year’s CNS of the Year hails from the Lone Star State and is a clinical nurse specialist providing direct care to heart transplant and left ventricular assist device (LVAD) patients at Baylor St Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, TX. We caught up with Brittany Rhoades, Ph.D., APRN, CCNS, and she shared her thoughts on being a CNS, the CNS role, and the tip that Houston weather is excellent for gardening.
What role do you play at St. Luke’s Medical Center?
I started as a CNS for the transplant and LVAD program in an educational role for nursing and multidisciplinary staff. After a couple years, I transitioned to direct patient care practice. As a CNS, I can go from education roles to direct practice to quality or regulatory roles. The CNS role is very fluid, flexible, and necessary.
How did you become a CNS?
I started my nursing career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Many of the leaders in various areas of cardiology were CNSs. UAB also had a clinical nurse specialist program. That’s how I was introduced to the CNS role. It has provided me a way to become an advanced practice nurse while creating change at an organizational level.
What’s the biggest challenge facing CNSs?
Visibility and a clear understanding of the role is probably the biggest challenge. I’ve encountered individuals familiar with the CNS role who love CNSs and really know how to utilize them. But we need to educate more of our colleagues about the unique role of the CNS and how healthcare can benefit from CNSs’ expertise.
What’s the unique skill set that a CNS brings to an organization?
As an example, I’m an APRN and a Ph.D. researcher. I’m very passionate about qualitative research and learning how patients perceive things. I like to connect the two of those together. Clinicians have a particular perspective of illness and healthcare, and patients have their own unique perspectives. As a CNS, I want to bridge those perspectives to improve the healthcare experience for both patients and clinicians.
Why did you join NACNS?
I wanted to become a CNS because I wanted a broader scope than direct patient care and loved the CNS role. I quickly got involved with the Texas NACNS group as soon as I moved here. They are very encouraging, supportive and stress the importance of national membership.
It’s a great way to connect with like-minded people in the profession.
What do you do for fun?
I am a wife and mother to two beautiful girls. We enjoy gardening — Houston has terrific weather most of the year for being outside and gardening. We also appreciate the arts, museums, and theatre. We are always looking for a new place to explore.