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A Lifetime Journey to My Career and the ACHA Board

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

By Kristi Ryan, APRN, CPNP-AC

Note: ACHA Board of Directors member Kristi Ryan is in her first year of service. In today’s post, she is sharing what being on the ACHA Board of Directors means to her and how she got to where she is today. To learn more about becoming an ACHA Board member (we are currently recruiting through October 31, 2022), click here

Being on the ACHA Board is important to me because it allows me to give back to a community that I respect and care so much about.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a nurse. I was around eight years old during my first experience with congenital heart disease (CHD), when my cousin was born with CHD and underwent a couple of surgeries. He died when I was around 12 and I think this is when the seed was first planted that I knew that these patients and families deserved the best care—and that there needed to be better options.

I began my career caring for patients with CHD about 20 years ago when I was taking care of the smallest and most fragile CHD patients in the pediatric cardiac ICU. Through many different roles and further training, I was led to the field of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD). When I started my role as an ACHD nurse practitioner, one of my first tasks was to obtain accreditation for our program. As a former nurse manager, I thought this was going to be a brutal task where the organization would work to identify where all of our flaws were and turn us down.

What I learned working with ACHA was that is not at all what the accreditation process was like.

They were actually giving me tools to help assure that our program was providing all the best resources that our patients deserve. They actually WANTED us to be an accredited program and they WANTED our patients to have all the resources. From that experience, I realized that ACHA was the type of organization that I wanted to support. I knew that my goals and dreams were well aligned with the mission of the organization—which wasn't just in writing, but was demonstrated by ACHA's actions.

I honestly never considered myself to be a board candidate because I am not a patient with CHD, and I don't have the inside experience of living with CHD. But through my time with the board, I have realized that I do bring a unique perspective as I work with patients every day with congenital heart problems as their nurse practitioner.

I spend time talking with patients in clinic about their current status—whether that be encouraging news that everything is stable or that it is time for their next surgery or procedure. I talk with patients about the challenges they face with anxiety, depression, weight gain, fatigue, etc., and normalize the feeling of being alone that so many feel—but in reality, they are all living such similar experiences. I hope to bring people together so they can realize that they aren't alone. ACHA does just that through so many of its resources, and I hope that I can continue to bring that perspective to my role on the ACHA board.

I'm not sure I have a favorite part of being on the board as I still feel like I am so new to it, but so far, I really am enjoying meeting people from around the country who are passionate about CHD care. I love learning how such a successful organization runs. I would say that the leaders of ACHA are very humble and are continually striving to be better. It's exciting to be a part of that—and I look forward to really figuring out where my talents can be utilized within the organization.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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